“Thermae Romae”

Discovering things overseas that are similar to our own culture can be exciting.  For Japan, many things have come from overseas, particularly from the various countries in Asia.  Of course this isn’t something special to just Asia, but rather something you can see in countries of the Middle East (excluding North Africa) and European countries near the Mediterranean.  One example is noodles, which originally came from Chinese “rice cake soup.”  There are numerous theories regarding the shape, such as Japanese suiton, Chinese wonton, etc., however, it’s unknown exactly when and where noodles began.  As you might already know, 
the cultivation of wheat first began in Mesopotamia.  It’s believed that this cultivation and grinding it into flour was introduced to China along the Silk Road.  The original shape of noodles from China was also introduced along the Silk Road and returned to the West.  There’s the story that Marco Polo brought back noodles from China and then made Italian pasta, however it’s said that there was a noodle-like food even before that.  Although I’m not an expert on the history of cooking, it seems that because of the impact of the climate and weather in the East (for example, China), people often ate warm foods, many of which were boiled.  In contrast, it seems that in the West (regions close to the Mediterranean) many things were grilled.  It would be interesting to find out if there are differences in the use of flour based on which area they came from. 

Now back to the main topic.  I recently (finally) read the “Thermae Romae,” a Japanese manga (comic) series by Mari Yamazaki.  In short, the series is the story of an architect of ancient Roman bath houses who time travels to modern-day Japan and is exposed to and overwhelmed by the culture of food, shelter and clothing focused around the various hot springs and baths in Japan.     The main character doesn’t realize these “time-slips” and he can only wonder why he is going to the country of “flat faces.”  The story is about how he makes use of his time-slip experiences in ancient Rome.  If you’ve never read the stories, I highly recommend them. 

I have only thought of the possibility of time travel and parallel worlds as a fantasy, however I know that there are some things in history about which I wonder why they exist or which can’t be solved.  There are many theories that have taken shape from the influence of various cultures and over long periods of time.  I’m not trying to pull out an unrealistic story from this, however I think we have to really consider a Platonic mimesis of not only the flow from the “past” to the “present,” but also a flow from “now” to the “past” (by some method).     

Thermae Romae’s main character lived during the era of one of the Five Good Emperors, Hadrian.  “Thermae” means bath in Latin.  According to Nanami Shiono’s “Kentei no Seiki” (Roma-jin no Monogatari IX), to show that it was democratic, the emperor also enjoyed the public baths with the citizens.  Emperor Hadrian is said to have visited the Thermae the most among the emperors.  For ancient Romans, the Thermae was apparently an important place.  As far as using them, there was no difference between rich or poor (however there were differences in facilities and the equipment and things that could be used).  In Japan, we might say it was like a super public-bath-like facility where you could eat, drink, exercise, read, debate, do business, etc.      One theory suggests that there were even beauty salon/spa-like things at these as well.  During the reign of Emperor Hadrian, the most famous bath was  “Traianus Bath” named after the previous emperor, Trajan.  Because “Romans keep work (negotium) and leisure (otium) separate” (Nanami Shiono’s “Kentei no Seiki), the Thermae were places intended for leisure. 

In Japan there are hot spring accommodations (hotels, etc.), however the number of public baths is decreasing.  There are also large-scale spa facilities, but there are fewer and fewer bath houses that we can freely stop by and use.

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Rice Cookers

I recently purchased a new rice cooker.  Although there was nothing wrong with my old one, I had been using it for more than ten years and decided it was time for a “renewal.”  That’s when I found out a little more about rice cookers and was quite surprised.  With a rice cooker you can cook bread or cake, make stew, and cook both staples and side dishes.  
When I was a child, I remember spending the night at a friend’s house and in the morning my friend’s mother would often serve us pizza toast.  She said that for Asians, who eat plenty for breakfast (for Westerners it’s probably lunch), eating a well-balanced breakfast of protein, carbohydrates and fats is best.  And, she would cook that pizza toast in the rice cooker.   It would be perfectly toasted, cheese melted and taste delicious.  Until that time, I had only seen rice cooked in a rice cooker, so I recall being surprised that a rice cooker had other uses.    

I was curious which manufacturer made the first rice cooker and found out it was Toshiba.  In fact, the rice cookers in our household have also been Toshiba.  The rice cooker first debuted in 1955.  It was in this same year, exactly ten years after the end of the war, that many household appliances were introduced in Japan.  This was also the year that the rice shortage ended.  Rice production (at that time) was the highest in history at 12.39 million tons.  (2010 rice production was 7.85 million tons.)  Inside the Showa and Heisei period (Showa: 1926-1989, Heisei: 1989 to present) household historical timeline (Family Research Institute) there is an excerpt on “automatic rice cookers that cook rice while you sleep, which is like a dream for housewives.”  In those days, it was called an “electric rice cooker.” (The Japanese characters mean electric and kettle.)  Those living outside of Japan may not know that before the electric rice cooker appeared, the Japanese cooked their rice in kettles or earthen pots.  The inventor of the electric rice cooker was Shogo Yamada, who was affiliated with Toshiba’s home electric appliance division.  The product he made was a 6-cup cooker with a time switch, which meant rice would be ready at a desired time.  The price in those days was 3,200 yen.  Because the average monthly income from about 1954 to 1956 was between 28,000 yen and 30,000 yen, this was a luxury item.  According to the Showa/Heisei household historical timeline (Family Research Institute), there were those inside Toshiba who voiced things like, “Is it really necessary for our company to think about lazy women who would do things like cooking rice while sleeping?”  For this reason only 500 were sold.  However, the product met the needs of the housewives and was a big hit.  Production the following year reached 100,000 units per month and approximately 10 years later, in January 1964, 50% of all households in Japan had one, and the product was a huge success.  (The average monthly income in 1964 was approximately 60,000 yen.)  In the Toshiba Science Museum website history corner there is a section on nostalgic appliances.  There you can check out images, advertisements, etc. from the electric rice cooker of that time.  http://kagakukan.toshiba.co.jp/manabu/history/kaden_j.html

The rice cookers of today do more than simply cook rice.  Almost all rice cookers come with functions allowing you to make things such as bread, cake, onsen tamago (Japanese hot spring eggs), etc.  They are such multi-functional pots that the name should probably be changed.  Rice cookers work not only for brown rice, etc. but also for today’s sprouted brown rice, no-wash rice, etc.  They are loaded with features, including various ways of cooking your rice.  Also, some manufactures have products that are environmentally friendly and save energy. 

The best sellers are as follows:

Hitachi “Steam-cut, superb cook, pressure & steam”** RZ-KV100K

http://kadenfan.hitachi.co.jp/kitchen/lineup/rzkv/index.html

Zojirushi “Extreme cook”** NP-NB10-XJ

http://www.zojirushi.co.jp/syohin/ricecooker/NPNB.html

Sanyo Electric “Dance cook”** ECJ-XW100(W)

http://products.jp.sanyo.com/products/ecj/ECJ-XW100_W/index.html

Toshiba RC-10VSD(N)

http://www.toshiba.co.jp/living/rice_cookers/rc_10vsd/

 Tiger “Just cooked”** JKJ-G100-T
   
http://www.tiger.jp/products/ricecooker/jkj_g.html

 **direct translations from Japanese names

When you go to each product’s website, you will see that the product names (except for Toshiba) appeal to the way you cook rice and the technology involved.  They convey the efforts made by companies in trying to get closer to cooking rice in kettles and earthen pots.  If you visit a household appliance store, you will find that you are able to purchase them at prices lower than the suggested list price.  There are also some products with certain functions, etc. that are priced higher.   

Changes in people’s lives and the attitudes of Japanese companies in responding to the needs of the housewife haven’t changed.  The pursuit of making the best tasting rice and the revolution of the rice cooker 10, 20, or 30 years from now is something we look forward to.

Small is Beautiful

You probably know the phrase, “Small is beautiful.”  Often used in advertising, it’s a phrase that many people have likely heard. 
It is the title of a book by English economist, E.F. Schumacher.  Published in 1973, the original title was “Small Is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered.”  As you probably know, 1973 was the year of the October War, or the Fourth Arab-Israeli War.  It was published during the energy crisis and the book attracted much attention at the time.  FYI: The Japanese version is by Mr. Keizo Kojima.  


This phrase was also made famous by Schumacher’s mentor, Austrian economist and legal scholar, Leopold Kohl, who criticized economic supremacy and preached just how effective and personal a small community level organization is for people.  “Small is beautiful” was the slogan used for this movement.  People say that the original idea came from Kohl and it became a book by Schumacher. 

The great importance of technology in Schumacher’s book is emphasized in European countries, cities and corporations, and, as you really understand from reading the book, it is interesting that parts of it feel like Japanese goods and services.   

With the rapid economic growth focused on emerging countries, “Small is beautiful” is resurging.  However, more than just returning, related things are actually being carried out and the society that Schumacher envisioned is becoming closer. 


In a past blog about eco-city construction in the U.A.E. we wrote about the implementation of a new transportation system called podcar, which was being considered.  From 2009, there have been news reports that the introduction of these podcars is being considered even in cities in India. 
The podcar, Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) or Personal Automated Transport (PAT) as it is affectionately known, is a new form of public transportation smaller than a train or bus, and closer to a taxi.  It is best to think of it as a shared taxi with a set destination.  However, although the implementation strategies differ by country, it seems that it will be seen as a replacement to the car.  In residential areas in Japan, you see microbuses that circulate between stations and housing areas, but similar things will quantitatively increase.  

We are looking at not only cars, but also the handling of the food supply crisis.  There is now talk of starting to limit the amounts of items sold in supermarkets, etc.  The sizes that you see in an emerging market supermarket are because of large families and there are many items that are close to American sizes.  Because of the influence of fast food and the advancement of products, it seems that the number of obese people is increasing.  As a country, thinking about the health of the people is an issue, and solving the problem of increasing amounts of garbage has become a major issue as well.  As countries with large populations become more advanced garbage also increases tremendously. 

Something close to and a step above “Small is beautiful” is the Japanese phrase, “Mottainai.” Wangari Maatai, the first Kenyan to win a Nobel Peace Prize in the environmental field, is said to have been impressed with the phrase when she visited Japan.  Her proposed Mottainai campaign became a big topic.  In Japan, the reconstruction of disaster areas and convergence of the nuclear accident will take time and there will be many people who have to review their lives.  In particular, when it comes to views on electricity, there will be more people changing their views and becoming conscious of saving energy.  As for me, I am unsure as to whether “Mottainai” is the most suitable or not, however I believe that with the will of the citizens it will (as a result) make the country more environmentally conscious in terms of saving energy for cities and the country, which is a great thing.  In reality, it was stated (by TEPCO and the Japanese government) that during the rolling blackouts power demand is below expected.  In other countries we likely wouldn’t see the same effect.

“Can Do” – When life gives you lemons, make lemonade

Do you know the comic Dilbert?  It’s a comic strip by Scott Adams and in it was the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” meaning that when life gives you sour lemons, you should make sweet lemonade.  In other words, no matter what happens, we can make use of it, and no matter how difficult the situation becomes, there are ways to overcome.  It’s one of my friend’s favorite phrases. 

One month has passed since the Tohoku-Kanto earthquake.  Work to remove the debris, etc. is still continuing and in many of the devastated areas there are very few places where lifelines have fully recovered.  Many people continue to live in evacuation shelters, and recovery and reconstruction will likely take much time.  
Nevertheless, people are helping each other and the day-to-day scene is quite simply just as the phrase says, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.”  Putting heads together and living life.  In a television interview, an elderly man and woman talked about how “In the past, life was inconvenient.  We just want to return to the days of our childhood.”  They also mentioned that “For the children, this is an opportunity to teach the age-old wisdom of life.” 

On another note, my father’s family home is in Yonezawa.  Although there was little quake damage there, it was still a fair amount.  Yonezawa is also the place introduced in NHK’s period drama “Tenchijin” as the land of the Uesugi family.  Rinsenji, where Naoe Kanetsugu slept, is near his family home.  
Many people in Yonezawa are proud of the Uesugi ninth feudal lord, Uesugi Yozankou, a figure who saved Yonezawa from the domain’s financial difficulties and famine.  Calling him Yozankou is a sign of respect from the people of Yonezawa.  Other than him, there are no other lords called “kou.”  
Also, the name Yozan is a name he used after retirement.  The name Uesugi Harunori is the name used after attaining manhood.  He was a lord, but adopted and born into the Takanabe domain (located in Hyoganokuni, presently Miyazaki Prefecture).  At the time he became a lord, he was still young and it is said that he often conflicted with the chief retainers appointed by predecessors, however he gave important posts to bright individuals in industry and government, and immediately proceeded toward reform.  It was necessary to address short and medium term problems like famine in the Tohoku area, as well as the long term problem of improving the domain’s financial difficulties.  The Yonezawa domain’s income before Yozankou was said to be blue flax (Aoso or ramie) or wax.  The former was used as a plant fiber, a raw material for clothing and paper.  The latter was something mainly taken from lacquer.  The income from these began to decline, and it was necessary to acquire other means of income. 

First was land reform.  In order to increase rice production, road maintenance took place.  Agricultural waterways were completed over several decades, and increased rice production became possible.  Even today, some of the agricultural waterways from those times are apparently still in use.  
Along with water improvements, close to one million Japanese lacquer, mulberry, and kozo trees were planted.  Lacquer is the raw ingredient for wax, mulberry is essential in raising silkworms for silk, kozo is a raw material used for Japanese paper.  In addition, he looked for new industries and carried out purification of salt used in hot spring areas.  He tried everything that could be industrialized.
A well-known story is that of rice textiles.  As well as being a raw material used in the production of clothing, he made a textile mill for the Yonezawa domain.  Women farmers were employed and they began raising silkworms and silk production.  He is also famous for making the samurai do sideline work.  They made the local art pieces called Sasano Ittobori wood carvings and Sagara dolls to supplement income.  The famous wood carving is called “Otaka Poppo.” This hawk is supposed to represent Yozankou (one of the characters in the Japanese spelling of the name Yonzankou is “hawk”). 

In order to solve the food shortages during the famine, freshwater fish such as carp were brought up.  Even today, sweet boiled carp is famous.  At that time, rice harvests were poor, so porridge was eaten.  It’s said that he came up with the idea to improve nutrition with protein.  In addition, how to eat wild plants, fish and meat preservation methods, how to make miso, etc. together with details about the famine were gathered in paintings and put into booklets called “Katemono,” which were distributed throughout the domain.  He taught people that if you could put something in your mouth, it could be eaten.  As a result, the number of people from the Yonezawa domain who died of starvation due to famine and poor crops was much lower compared to other domains.  
His reforms were not limited to just industry and food.  He also put efforts into education and set up a “suggestion box” in the domain to understand the opinions of the townspeople and farmers. 

Although a period novel, “Real Lacquer Country” by Fujisawa Shuhei contains writings about Yozankou and we suggest that anyone with some time definitely read it.  Although it is a story from a fairly long time ago, it was made into an NHK drama.

Yozankou’s famous words are, “You can do anything if you try” (rough translation).  It changed the words of Takeda Shingen, but he is without a doubt a historical figure who could “talk the talk and walk the walk.” 

In the foreign media, because of the earthquake disaster and nuclear accident, the future of the Japanese economy may be dark, but I also think that we “Can Do.”  Unfortunately, there is no leader or presence like Yozankou, however I think that his spirit has been handed down to each and every Japanese.

We are Japanese, think positively, think positively.

Some of what is being reported in the foreign media, such as that Japan is “sinking,” is a little unfortunate.  Of course negative content is much more attention grabbing than learning the truth, however since we don’t know when or where the same type of event might occur, we want there to be calm and level-headed coverage.  While foreign countries are ordering their citizens to return to their home countries, it drowns out the serious messages of support that groups and individuals from foreign countries have sent to Japan.  We want the media to refrain from broadcasting disturbing content.  

Criticism of the Japanese government and TEPCO’s extremely slow response regarding the nuclear power plant situation is inevitable.  Despite the fact that this a high-alert situation, the actions of the costly nuclear power plant that we’ve come to care so much about are probably a corporate mind created by a consumer society.  There is no use in criticizing this right now and we want things to be done above what can be done.  It is with this shared feeling that the intense rescue efforts are continuing to prevent the worst case from occurring.

In economic growth, countries facing large populations have been given the challenge of dealing with possible future energy and power supply shortages.   Although a major economic power, the course that resource poor Japan has followed in the past is a risk.  It is said that the risks can be avoided, however these are things that happen.  Though it’s not my intention to talk about environmental problems, saving energy is essential.  

Roads, ports and airports in the disaster area have slowly reopened and shipments to these areas are gradually improving.  Items have not yet reached many evacuation centers, and we can only pray that necessary fuel, medical supplies and food will be delivered as soon possible.   Since the day before yesterday, 
the disaster areas have been hit with cold weather and more extremely cold days will continue.  However, we are encouraged by the victims who are repeating “Think positively.  Think positively.” in their TV interviews.  No matter the challenge, the heart of the Japanese people is something of which we are extremely proud.  We are Japanese, think positively, think positively.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

Japan is facing its greatest crisis.  From March 12th, news of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant worried people across the nation.  Hydrogen explosions in the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors were shocking, but information of today’s explosion of the No. 2 reactor seemed different, and at TEPCO’s morning press conference there were only things that TEPCO had done wrong.  The announcement was filled with the word “seems” and even to the untrained eye, it was clear the truth was not being told.  We were able to read the unusual situation from their attitudes and their holding of a press conference. 

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is located in the town of Okuma in the Futaba District of Fukushima Prefecture. 
Operation start date and plant prime contractors are as follows.  (From the TEPCO website.)

No. 1 March 1971 GE


No. 2 July 1974 GE and Toshiba


No. 3 March 1976 Toshiba


No. 4 October 1978 Hitachi


No. 5 April 1978 Toshiba


No. 6 October 1979 GE and Toshiba

Japan’s first maritime accident in 1978 with the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant  (No. 3 reactor)  has been published about 30 years after the accident.  Even if the extent was not to the level of this accident, if Japan and TEPCO continue to proceed with the same response, because times are different, we want them to get rid of their old fashioned way of thinking. 

On another subject: TEPCO’s website.  As of 10am on March 15th, according to the site, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on the nuclear power page was all in operation (as represented by smiley face icons).  ※When checked at 10:50am this had been edited.  Because this is a situation, and maybe they are not in a position to do something, however we feel that as a company, they should be a little nervous and take appropriate action. 

According to NHK news regarding the No. 2 reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, there was an explosion noise in the vicinity of the facility that adjusts the pressure of the containment vessel that holds the reactor, and the containment vessel pressure decreased.  Because the amount of radiation around the site has risen sharply, some of the employees began to leave the facility under the direction of the plant director.  At that time, radiation was 16 times the limit when tested around the main gates of the plant.  
The information above came from Prime Minister Kan’s morning press conference.

The extent of the Tohoku Pacific Earthquake and the tsunami were of a scale unforeseen by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, however from its 1971 beginnings major earthquakes have taken place both in Japan and abroad, and so we have to wonder about the experts answering that it was “unforeseen.”    Just as Japan is promoting being a technological powerhouse,  falling into a situation that calls into question risk management technology/capability is unexpected.  The assumed time is supposed to be adequate.  Even with this kind of damage, so that the general public is not affected, it is said that Japan is a true technological powerhouse.  From what various experts have said, it is assumed that this can be handled.  Even if other countries and the foreign media criticize them, the situation is self-invited.  Japan’s downfall is that it is a capable country, but sometimes it doesn’t do anything, and situations arise where nothing can be done.   Perhaps it is the nature of the Japanese people, however with this accident things won’t be dismissed with this explanation. 

Written on March 15th morning

The Tohoku Pacific Earthquake: Day 4

March 11th.  From early morning to around 1pm, I was doing some work and had taken a late lunch.  I have a habit of watching the Diet proceedings live on television, and on this day Prime Minister Kan responded to the House of Councillors Budget Committee regarding foreign donations.  Foreign Minister Maehara just recently resigned regarding this same problem.  He received 250,000 yen in illicit donations and Prime Minister Kan 1,040,000 yen.  Although not a significant donation, illegal is illegal, and he was pressured to resign.  It was during this House of Councillors Budget Committee session when news of the earthquake broke.  An unfamiliar alarm rang out and echoed as the earthquake hit Japan from Tohoku to Kanto.  The breaking news was about Tohoku, which was a relief, however the shaking was unlike anything I had ever felt and I moved to a place in my home where things would not fall.  The shaking was long, and the earthquake that we thought would eventually come had finally come. 
From Shibuya to Setagaya wards in Tokyo, the extent of the earthquake was mostly limited to items falling off of bookcases.  Even within Tokyo, the shaking and amount of damage differed depending on which area one was located.  Immediately after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake, large aftershocks hit.  I called my mother at her home in Tokyo and was able to contact her using a landline phone, however following the large aftershocks, the calls stopped going through.  The internet continued to work as usual, and I was able to send emails to my family.  In Setagaya ward cell phones stopped working immediately after the quake.  Because landlines and cell phones continued to be out of service, I was able to use Skype to contact others.  It was possible to call a landline number from Skype, however it would not connect to a cell phone number. 

The coverage after the breaking news flash of the earthquake was quite impressive.  The station quickly switched from the live Diet session coverage to a special news program.  They quickly ran footage from after the quake as well as of the widespread damage caused by the tsunami.  Despite the fact that even Tokyo experienced tremendously strong aftershocks, the NHK announcer’s (Taisuke Yoko) demeanor was very strong and he conveyed the situation in Tohoku in a calm manner.  Although only a short time had passed, the information was conveyed in a well-organized manner.  The response and information provided by other stations was also good, yet a little more chaotic.  All of the Tokyo stations switched their schedules to special programming.  ※In Tokyo (excluding cable, CS, etc.) there are a total of 7 channels, including commercial stations.

After the damage caused by the shaking came the tsunami.  Inconceivable images came flooding across the screen.  Immediately after the earthquake, we saw images of the tsunami flowing back at the mouth of the Natori River in Sendai Prefecture, and fields and homes being swept away.  Just when we imagined that the damage could not get any worse, images of other damage and devastation from an ever-widening area continued and there were many people who did not know exactly what to do.

Aftershock and massive tidal wave alarms continue, which is affecting the quick response of rescue operations.  Currently, alarms and warnings for tsunamis have been lifted and rescue operations by the Japanese Defense Force are moving ahead at a rapid pace.  There are many who had been stranded and rescued, and the number of people who sacrificed their lives grows by the day.  The number of people confirmed dead or missing is now at 3367, but this will continue to rise.  In Miyagi Prefecture alone there are said to be 10,000 people still missing.  This earthquake was the largest ever-recorded in Japan and the fourth largest ever in the entire world.   

Prime Minister Kan’s actions on March 12th began with him traveling to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from the disaster area.  At the plant, malfunctions were found, which have become just as serious as the earthquake and tsunami.  Japan is a natural resource conservation country and promotes nuclear power, which together with Japan’s technology is sold to other countries.  There are many countries besides Japan who promote nuclear power, and even with different technologies, the desire to avert a large accident is the same.   As the coverage continues from the day before yesterday, hydrogen explosions have occurred in the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, where the box-shaped outer wall was blown away and only steel left.  The government announced that reactor containment structures and pressure vessels are sound.  
The evacuation of nearby residents was expanded to a 20km radius and according to the latest government announcement, the possibility that a large amount of radioactive matter will scatter remains low.  Over 190 people have been exposed, but expert agencies said at a press conference that the exposure was “not at a level hazardous to health.”  The number of people is expected to increase and we can only pray that this situation is resolved quickly. 

Related to the problems at the nuclear power plant is the worry of insufficient power from Tohoku down to Kanto, etc.  Yesterday TEPCO held a press conference about the government’s approval of planned power outages.  There are clearly many people confused about the situation due to the discrepancies in the planned outage area information given to the media and that on TEPCO’s website.  The main discrepancy was related to Tokyo’s 23 wards, where the information provided by the media listed only Arakawa ward, when in fact other areas were included.  The areas scheduled for outages are divided into 5 groups, with power outages of up to 3 hours at specified times.  I was shocked at last night’s 20:00 announcement because certain areas were scheduled for outages beginning the following morning at 6:20am.  
However, this morning there were no planned outages as the government and TEPCO were able to supply the power.  Many railway companies cancelled trains during the scheduled blackout time periods and decreased the number of trains running.   
The announcement regarding rolling blackouts during the morning rush hour had a tremendous impact.  Horrible crowding occurred at stations that remained open, and there were limits placed on movement toward the platforms.  Trains took more than one hour and to get to their offices, many people took routes different from usual.  Also, it took many two to three times as long to get to work.  Many people used buses and taxis from the stations that had been closed.  Even by taking the long way or detours, many Japanese salarymen (businessmen) on their way to their offices took buses and taxis to get near stations that remained in operation.  This is a picture of the Japanese people’s seriousness. 
 The thing that makes me wonder is why wasn’t emergency contact made with each company’s employees at the time of last night’s announcement by the Japanese government and TEPCO.  The railway companies’ announcements were also late, however besides having the internet, to the extent possible employees should continue to go to work.  Some companies have taken temporary days off, however we want them to consider flexible responses.  The rolling blackouts are scheduled to take place this evening in certain areas.  A further announcement regarding tomorrow onward will be made, however there are cases in which the blackouts may continue for a month.  Even in the Tohoku region rolling blackouts are scheduled to take place.

The aftershocks are still occurring and there is a 40% possibility that they will continue.  Although the situation remains unstable, we hope that those isolated in the devastated areas are rescued as soon as possible.  We want those who were lost due to the tsunami to be able to quickly rest in peace.  It will surely take time for the lifelines to the quake-hit areas to recover, however because it is still quite cold in the Tohoku region, we can only pray that the response is quick.  
The latest news is available on NHK.  Japanese: http://www.nhk.or.jp/ English: http://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/ (Japanese site is more detailed.)

Written on March 14th