So how are you? Are you doing ok? How is everything there? What’s happening? You alright?
These and other variations on the same theme have been pinging around the world into the inboxes and ears of many residents of Japan since the earthquake of 11 March. There is no easy way to answer such questions, it seems, because every time I try I come up with something different.
Just as I wrote those words, the earthquake alarms that many people have on their mobile phones sounded, before my table in the cafe shook lazily, almost soothingly, as if a giant foot was somewhere trying to rock a cradle holding Japan to send us all to sleep. It only went on for a couple of seconds, so can’t have been very big or must have been located far away. Once I was sure that my cup of tea wasn’t going to spill I returned to my writing.
Such complacency must seem incredible to Westerners, faced with images of the devastation in the North and worrying about us here in Tokyo. If I stop to think I am also incredulous at how quickly I have become used to aftershocks and alarms, how swiftly I can now calculate levels of immediate danger and decide if they are worth getting out of my chair for. Similarly, it feels as if we have all become armchair experts on all things nuclear, discussing levels of radiation exposure, possible side-effects of iodine tablets and the relative impacts of micro- and milli-sieverts in the same way that we once engaged in more idle chatter.
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