Lots of large stores around Tokyo were closed due to things like post-quake checks being needed and staff transport concerns, but I didn’t even feel like any massive extravagant retail experiences (it’s the fate of the unemployed traveller in Tokyo). So we ended up in Yoyogi Park. We found a clearing, with a large grassy area. The grass was yellow, having only recently emerged from under winter snows.
I lay down on the flaky grass, getting bits stuck all over my clothes. In the distance, the Docomo Yoyogi Building dominated the cityscape with its classic American skyscraper styles, but in the mid-distance, a Japanese flag fluttered in the breeze. Birds flew by, swooping low enough that I could feel them whoosh overhead.
It all felt quite ordinary and yet not quite normal. Something was different.
Because the local trains were running on a reduced timetable, the carriages got a little squashy. Not quite like those times when gloved train-squashers are on duty to help cram everyone into the carriages, but pretty close.
I was standing, grabbing on to a handstrap, with people on all sides pushed up against me. To get off the train amid that huddle required taking rapid but small steps. It was a matter of just instinctively moving with the crowd as one giant commuter blob, before slowly drifting apart in different directions. It was quite fun, and it seemed like, yeah, it’s an authentic Tokyo cultural experience.
We found an izakaya bar and ordered up plates of food based on the generally well translated English descriptions. The bar’s ordering system involved a touch pad, and this exciting technology somehow allowed us to order too much. Beer – which comes in frosty mugs and is poured by an automatic beer-pouring machine, complete with a tilt to minimise bubbles – appeared on our table seconds after we ordered it.
It was nice to just eat lots of crazy fried things, meats on sticks and lovely salmon served with a raw egg yolk. And beer. That is also good.
I was a little worried about the radiation situation. It didn’t seem like Tokyo was going to turn into a radioactive spawning ground for millions of Godzillas, but I didn’t want to risk being in town if something showed up that would give me testicles and then testicular cancer in 50 years time.
It’s strange being faced with a nuclear incident. That sort of thing felt like a remnant of the past. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl – those were from the ’80s. Surely nuclear power station meltdowns were as out as acid washed jeans and Cosby-style sweaters? Oh wait, those are back too. Damn hipsters.
Coming from New Zealand, a country that prides itself on being “nuclear free”, it can be easy to feel glad to not be reliant on nuclear energy. Except New Zealand is.
It’s the fruits of globalisation. The things we buy from overseas come from countries that use nuclear energy. And it’s that nuclear energy that means things can be cheaper than they’d be relying on other means of energy. Or if they were made in New Zealand.
We live these lush 21st century lives. We are, one way or another, fuelled by nuclear energy.