Daily Dose: After the Earthquake – A Filmmaker’s Perspective

I was in Kichijoji, Tokyo, about 20 minutes train ride from the mid-town Tokyo. People come to this area to buy vintage clothes, to look for good-old furniture, and to enjoy art, and it’s known as one of the sophisticated areas in Tokyo. As I was interviewing a shop owner for a Japanese TV show, the earthquake began. But earthquakes are pretty common here, people in the store didn’t seem to care. But, as the “shake” became more vigorous, things were falling off and started to break. Someone shouted “Open the door to escape!,” “put your head under the tables!” Then everybody found a place to escape and waited for the earthquake to cease.

After the earthquake stopped, people seemed to be nervous, and I thought I was almost going to die. The phone and Internet stopped, so there was no way to find out how big the earthquake was and how other areas of Japan were doing. But Twitter was working. And I figured out the earthquake originated in Miyagi. A lot of my friends in Tokyo’s rooms ended up in a mess (see pictures), and a gas tank near Tokyo exploded. It sounded so surreal the assistant and I were laughing and heading over to a zoo for location hunting, and then I started to feel like I was walking on a jelly and unsure which direction I was taking.

“Another one came!”

Once I realized it, windows of buildings surrounding us cracked and the trees were shaking. Elephants were trying hard to get into her room, and capybara was running around.
Me, everyone, and all animals went into confusion in Tokyo.

Since the train was not working for the day, I decided to walk home, and so did everybody else in the whole city. After 3 hours I finally got home, (it usually takes 15 minutes using the train), and I turned on the TV to see how big the earthquake was (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w3AdFjklR50&feature=related, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EZMqVTPhHzI). Tsunami ate away the cities in the North. News said that over 20,000 people are missing. I received emails to be careful with acid rain from the gas plant explosion. And some were looking for their families through twitter, and some were freaking out at every aftershock. I was just shocked and couldn’t think of a thing. Everything surrounding me seemed so surreal it was hard to accept.

And the news then started to inform about the possibility of nuclear reactor melt-away…

The government said it is going to be safe right after the explosion, but it didn’t seem to be. There were some articles about the power plant being safe (http://blogs.nature.com/news/thegreatbeyond/2011/03/update_major_radiation_release.html). But at the same time, it was proven that more than 20 people were radiated. Who knows how bad of an effect that radiation would have on those people? I didn’t think anybody could be sure at that point.

Five days have passed already, but the confusion hasn’t gone away. There are still more than 10,000 people missing. And the people are still in hunger and cold everywhere in the north, waiting for supply. Nuke plants’ radiation is spreading out further, and we are still not sure how dangerous it is.

In Tokyo however, there aren’t seriously damaged, but there are some troublesome matters. A lot of places in Tokyo and other prefectures around here are having rolling blackouts every 3 hours, so we have to get ready for living without electricity. Also for some reason, a lot of people are buying tons of groceries, so the stores are pretty much empty here (http://photozou.jp/photo/photo_only/1386898/71328421).

Well, I guess they are getting ready for another emergency. And another thing I thought was interesting, is that people are so sensitive about “imprudent behavior,” jokes on Twitter and blogs are getting attacked from others (http://femen.livejournal.com/142277.html this is a message from Ukrainian activists saying, “don’t shake earth, shake boobs”) I saw people getting furious about a man posting French cuisine on his tweet, which I thought was a bit too much. Also “Hereafter” directed by Clint Eastwood, stopped playing in theaters here, which is too bad. It is one of my favorite movies I’ve seen recently, I am sure there will be people feeling better about life by watching this…

I am not ready to summarize the situation yet, but I know now that anything could happen, and the whole country can be in confusion in just a few minutes. Mother earth has so much power over us, and there is not much I can do when she exerts massive power. Personally, however, from the rolling blackouts, I like how I can feel the sunshine and the moonlight without the interruption of lights. I feel closer to nature, and I’m sure a lot of people in Tokyo feel the same way.

And I just hope, truly hope for the safety for the people in the north, and would be thankful if you can help Japan in some way together with us.

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Note from Jonathan: My wife and I met filmmaker Momi Yamashita at this year’s Macon Film Festival. We became quick Facebook friends and, like anyone who met and knows Momi, instantly thought of her when news of the quakes hit. We are honored that she took time to share her thoughts with DailyFilmFix.com. Momi told me in an email that she has trouble with English. As you can tell from this thoughtful commentary, Momi has no problems conveying her message and English certainly doesn’t get in the way. Like many of you, our thoughts and prayers are with the Momi and the people of Japan at this dark time. I will endeavor to get updates from Momi in the future. Please give what you can.

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