Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Post Earthquake post

Peter Here;

My first ever earthquake experience was in the first week of my Japan experience. The birds fell silent, the ground rumbled and the houses shuddered for all of ten seconds. Then the world returned to normal, and all was left as a reminder was a gently swinging lampshade.

Last week was different, and obviously not as fascinating an observation. Of course it was scary, and of course I feel very lucky to be alive, given the devastation up in the north. The quake hit just as I was getting ready to leave for my Friday afternoon kindergarten English class, and that's exactly where I went after the earth stopped moving. It was relieving to see that apart from a few teary faces, they were all ok and treating the whole experience like camping. The teachers were absolute angels with them.

Since then, various news sources seem to have difficulty in providing accuracy in the actual situation; some people have mentioned statistics that have been quite simply plucked out of thin air, or at the very least a twitter commentary. Quite a few of my Eikaiwa contemporaries are now leaving Japan on the basis of this, personally I think it's a bit rash.

I must say it would've been very easy for me to have left Japan as I don't have any family or commitments outside of the Internship keeping me here. However, especially after the first couple of headline days were over I felt fine staying, because having come from an advertising background I know firsthand that certain news sources will very much tweak and dramatise the information to get a larger viewing audience, rather than reporting it 'as it is'. From my humble experience, news has become more about ratings than providing de-facto information, which means it is difficult to get a reasonable report on our current situation.

The best way to see through the smoke is to get to the same sources that they use, which Richard has pointed out in the previous post are the Embassies and the expert authorities that are actually working on the site. Any armchair enthusiast can call themself an analyst, so news journalists can pick and choose the ones that run with the story they want to write, if you know what I'm saying.

So quite simply, given the official and direct sources, I feel reassuredly safe here. I'm just not going up North anytime soon. I've not done any firefighting and I don't like the cold, and although I was in the Scouts and an avid fan of Ray Mears I would probably get in the way of the real heroes!

Japan Update

Richard here.

As everyone knows, we are all well, and the area where Shiramizu is (Sugito City in Saitama prefecture) is totally safe. About 195km from the Fukushima reactor problem NE of here.

While some of the dojo members have family they can not contact in Sendai, Miyagi and the areas where the tsunami hit and the reactors are, everything in Saitama is normal, and there is no need to evacuate.

The situation in Japan looks grim on the news, but actually things on the ground here in unaffected areas (most of Japan) are better than the news reports.

The 80,000+ people first thought lost in Miyage/Sendai is now down to 13,000 (most of them still unconfirmed missing, part of the many not yet reached by rescue crews in isolated coves), and the millions first thought in shelters is now 400,000+.

Still horrible, absolutely, but much better than expected.

It reminds me of 9/11 in New York when 50,000+ people were said to have maybe died at first, but after a few days, it was realized the actual number was much smaller. I'm not trying to trivialize the 3000+ lost on 9/11, no, just pointing out over time things are seen in a more real perspective.

I am not leaving Japan.
Pete is not leaving Japan.

There are non-Japanese leaving, either they had plans to leave later this year, or they had been in Japan long enough anyway or they are foreign company expat staff. Some people are taking their children south or out of the country.

The expat staff will most likely be gone for just a week or two until things calm down. All the company people I talk to or hear about say the same thing.

Some of the non-Japanese leaving will come back.

My decision to stay is simple. It's based on cold, hard facts from official guidelines.
Not TV news talking heads, not 'my friend heard...'.

I live 210km from the Fukushima reactors. Shiramizu is 192km away. Tokyo 230km.

The US military, Jpn gov't, Canadian gov't, British gov't, the Int'l Atomic Energy Commission, the World Health Organization and UN Disaster Relief all agree outside 30km in the worst case scenario is still safe.

The US military has 50,000+ personnel in Japan, many who have their families here, but they are not evacuating their children nor the other civilians.

Again, there are lots of 'experts' from universities, etc talking a lot on TV news, but I'm not listening to them.

Only if there is an evacuation order for Canadians will I leave this area, either for the south of Japan or another country.

If I did not have important responsibilities here at home, work and Shiramizu, I would be in Sendai right now volunteering to find people, radiation warning or no radiation warning. I've done forest firefighting, I have basic search and rescue training, and I'm Canadian so I can handle the snow they're having now.

While I have woken up each day expecting for hear this reactor crisis is being controlled, it keeps going sideways, but not worse in that a 100km exclusion zone is not being created to my knowledge at the time of posting this.

I honestly think we are still in the first week of shock and confusion, but by next week, things will be much better.

Again, any concerns someone may have, they must look at the only experts that count, as I've listed them above.

The silver lining to this cloud is that with so many non-Japanese English teachers abandoning ship, there are going to be tons of extra English teaching opportunities for our interns to sort through and choose.
As each intern tries to make the internship better, including the quality of part-time work, the current interns will have a truly unique opportunity to get a few extra good paying gigs.

The official websites I'm looking at.

US Forces Japan

US Forces Japan Commander positive announcement

UK official site

Canadian official site

BBC live Japan - good, except for the odd sensationalist report

Good articles in the Japan Times today about language and attitudes related to these issues, plus helpful information sites.

Feel free to contact me if you have any concerns or questions. Please be aware we are very busy right now so if we don't reply right away, especially if the message is non-essential, I apologize.
In terms of sending advice for what we should do here, I will have to disregard it for now if it doesn't match what the authorities I have listed above are stating. Thank you in advance for understanding.

Other than all this, it sure has been nice and sunny. Today quite windy, I had a wonderful bicycle ride back from the dojo after checking in with Pete. The wind blowing out to sea of course :)


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Intern #9 now selected: Congratulations to Erica Jones!

Richard here!

I'm pleased to announce that Erica Jones of the United States has been selected as our 9th intern, starting from April 1 for one year!

Erica is a recent university history graduate from Smith College who spent 6 months in Tokyo at Sophia University as an exchange student. She speaks some Japanese and she has experience teaching English to ESL children whose families have recently moved to the US.

Previous interns have mentioned to me several times that if the right applicant comes along who has no karate experience, it would be interesting to see a karate beginner go through the internship as they should get quite a bit out of it. With Erica's background in athletics and her overall outgoing and professional manner, the selection committee was impressed enough to select her as our first 'beginner test-subject', which she is willing to become.

Let me clarify though that we were not looking for a beginner specifically in this round. Every year we select the most positive, out-going person with a good background who does very well following the application instructions and performs well in the interviews. Being able to speak clearly, think logically, sound professional and be accepting of the many intern challenges normally shines through in the interview process, and in the reference checks.

Keep an eye on this blog as the current intern Pete will do a pre-arrival interview with Erica over the next week or so.

Congratulations Erica! Shiramizu is already buzzing with excitement that you'll be with us in just one month's time.