Almost three months have passed since Japan was struck by what is now known as the Great East Japan Offshore Earthquake and Tsunami. While the days following the earthquake will always remain in our memories with unusual vividness, things have since subsided back into normality around Tokyo. The aftershocks went from hourly down to daily, then to once every few days, and then to even more rarely. While two months after the quake, we would still receive our daily reminder, we are now allowed to go unperturbed for several days.
What seemed like a big change after power-saving measures were first put into place has become normal as well. First, train stations, shops and streets seemed abnormally dim. Now I hardly notice that only every second light is burning. Maybe we didn’t need all this light in the first place. The fact that Tokyo isn’t burning as brightly as it used to hasn’t really made it a worse place. Escalators running only during peak hours? Air conditioning a little less freezing? So what! The government is suggesting office workers to dress more lightly and less formally to cope with approaching summer temperatures.
The summer months will bring new challenges, though: to cover the electricity demand, the region has to remain 15% below the peak demand of the last years. In preparation, shops are switching to LED lighting and are making plans to install solar panels. Factories are planning to schedule production on the weekends while closing for two days during the work week.
I guess that if everyone respected the government guideline (which has been in place for years) of not cooling below 28 degrees, things should be alright. (Since I personally don’t believe in subjecting my body to huge temperature gradients, I have always kept the thermostat at 29 degrees last year, so I don’t foresee many problems for myself.)
Progress in Fukushima remains slow. On our terrace, radioactivity levels remain slightly above the background, but are significantly lower than at first. We still crack the occasional lame cesium joke, but even those are getting old now. (The half-life of the jokes turns out to be much below that of the radioactive element.)
While up in the North, things will take time to come back to normal and some people even now are still living in emergency shelters, life in Tokyo is business as usual. Despite the great media scare which still keeps away foreign tourists, Tokyo is – and has always been – ok.