Friday night (last night, at time of writing), we went out to a bar to get a beer with some friends.
Shibuya is darker than usual because businesses are trying to save electricity, but restaurants and clubs are still open. It's fair to say there is probably less foot traffic than normal. It wasn't crowded by any means, but it wasn't empty, either.
The stories of panic in Tokyo are overblown.
Look how afraid these guys are for their lives. They are clearly this close to bolting. And they're even foreign! How often are you hearing about non-Japanese that are staying? Oh, right, you aren't. Because it's not as dramatic and emotionally compelling as people who are loudly fearing for their lives and the lives of their children.
It did feel kind of wrong to be enjoying a beer and good conversation while the television showed pictures of destruction and devastation on the north coast, but if we could do anything to help directly, we would. But because we aren't doctors or helicopter pilots, there just isn't anything we can do to help right now. At least we're contributing to the local economy, right?
I'll admit there were fewer people than expected on a regular Saturday night, but it's hard to say if it's because people are leaving in droves or because they're simply staying in more. It's only been a week since that record-breaking earthquake and tsunami, after all. I don't know how many people in Tokyo are missing or mourning friends or family. If I'd lost a loved one in the last week, I don't know if I'd feel like going out either.
Shenanigans #1: CNN iReporter
This iReporter (not staff reporter) on CNN's website isn't helping calm anyone down. The article title, "Tokyo is Becoming a Ghost Town" is untrue, at least the way I define "ghost town." People are leaving, sure, especially foreigners, but that hardly puts it on its way to being abandoned. What she's saying in the article itself is largely factually true but situationally misleading.
This is the train station in our neighborhood Saturday afternoon. Look how abandoned it is!
The trains are even running on their usual schedule. They don't all have heat/air conditioning, and they don't all have the interior lights on, but you don't need either in the middle of the day in spring anyway (and it's definitely spring today, I think it hit 60 degrees).
This is a street that we entered from small exit from the Shibuya train station (yes, we went back to the same area where we went for beer last night). I don't know how you define "ghost town," but this doesn't even come close to fitting my criteria.
It's quieter than usual, but that's largely due to electricity-saving measures. Less ambient music, people aren't standing in front of stores with megaphones yelling about today's deals, and the usual giant televisions are off.
Shenanigans #2: Fox News
Fox News supplied this helpful graphic a few days ago. It's been debunked all over the internet, I'm sure, but I wanted to have a go at it too.
(Screenshot snagged from here.)
Please note the plant located in the heart of Tokyo named "Shibuyaeggman."
We had no idea that they built a nuclear plant in the middle of such a major metropolitan area, so we went to see it:
Can you see it? It's to the left of The @ Super Suits St0re. Behind the "Wrong Way" sign. Here, let me get closer.
Eggman is a concert venue in the Tokyo neighborhood of Shibuya. Nothing like a nuclear plant. In fact, if you visit Eggman's site, they specify that they do not have a nuclear plant. It's fine print, but it's there.
If you think about it, "Fair and Balanced" doesn't say anything about accuracy of information.
We couldn't resist getting tourist photos. Look at me, I'm at the doorway of a dangerous radioactive site! And I'm not melting or exploding or anything!
Husband even got in on the touristyness.
On the walk back to the train station, we saw a horrible monstrosity, obviously created by all this radiation floating around. Look how big and cartoony her head is! Oh, the horror!
This fake bowl of noodles has developed a life of its own!
You can almost feel this group's panic as they rush to flee the city. And see the fear in their faces.
There are significantly fewer people at this intersection than usual, but I'd hardly say this city is on its way to being a ghost town.