Disquietude grows in Tokyo as nuclear threat rises

0 CommentsPrint E-mail Xinhua, March 16, 2011
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Tokyo, known as a high-tech, bustling metropolis, is also an opportunistic city.

Millions of people, lured by its riches, perpetual neon, pulsing shopping and entertainment districts and all-round 24-hour lifestyle, choose to live, work, play and visit the area.

But following the disastrous earthquake and ensuing tsunami that ravaged the northeastern Pacific coastal regions of the country and knocked out critical cooling functions at a faltering nuclear plant in Fukushima Prefecture, the nation's capital has taken on a new pensive, bemused character.

Corporate calamity

Public transportation systems in the metropolis are famed for their precision and efficiency. It is said the trains are so punctual in Tokyo that you can set your watch by them.

But currently railway firms are running at reduced capacity to save much needed power to avoid a nationwide blackout.

However, it would seem that commuters are the last to find out about the delays, and rush hours in the city are scenes of millions of fearful, fatigued, despondent workers -- all in disarray, battling to get to and from their offices.

"It's really tough here in the city," said Taka Sakai, an IT engineer working in the Akasaka region of the city.

"For most of us a 30-minute commute is taking up to two hours," said Sakai.

"And once we get to work our office building is continuously swaying with all the aftershocks and nobody knows if our efforts to get here have exposed us to radiation or not, as the information on TV is so unclear and changeable," he said.

He was also annoyed about the lack of information being made available to him, his family and his colleagues and feared that the government may be suppressing information to keep the public calm.

"I know there are people suffering far more than us in the north of Japan, but we want to protect ourselves and our families too," he said.

In order to keep his pregnant wife from possible exposure to radiation and the inconvenience caused by public utilities' planned power outages, he sent her to stay with relatives in Osaka Prefecture, located 520 km southwest of the capital.

Sakai's story seems to represent the sentiment of the majority of business people in Tokyo.

In the corporate quarters of Minato-ku, Shibuya-ku, Chou-ku and Shinjuku, the disquiet is palpable.

Skyscrapers can be seen to have switch off lights and air conditioners, workers can be seen scaling flights of stairs as the regular aftershocks cause elevators to cease. Lunchtimes are being spent at desks as people are reluctant to venture outside.

Some food and drink vendors and restaurants have closed their doors due to a lack of fresh supplies and falling patronage.

"I've just finally managed to book a flight to Seoul," said Naomi Matsuo, a salesperson for electronics giant LG Displays.

"I can still do my job in Korea and I have friends there. My company gave me this opportunity, so I took it. My family live in Kyushu so they are fine. They told me I should go. I'll be glad to be out of here," she said.

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