Friday, March 18, 2011


A blackout is a weird thing when you've grown up with electricity on 24/7/356, year after year, decade after decade, and have experienced temporary blackouts a grand total of two or three times in half a century.  I'm typing this on my laptop (rushing along trying to get as much done as I can before the battery discharges beyond the usable range), and the vision of my Internet connection device sitting by with not so much as a single lit LED, looks really strange.

So here I am typing text, because there isn't much else I can be doing, and I suppose the blackout is helpful for me today in that it has kicked me off-line and provided time for me to write some text - a task I've been ignoring for far too long.

.........  I just went out and checked for physical mail - noting the sun getting low on the horizon - mindful that unless I wanted to check it with a flashlight, I needed to make use of the sun's light.

With the power out, the water also disappears, as it's a pump-fed tank system that needs the electric pump to push water into the tank.  So, once the electric power is cut, there's a brief period where the apartment complex has gravity-fed water from the tank, but once that's gone, there's no more water from the tap until the pump goes into action again with power restored.

Come to think of it - it's vital pumps and lack of electrical power for them that caused the nuclear disaster unfolding at the Fukushima plant....

Well - as the darkness descends upon the land, I shall venture forth to experience this rare thing - a city without electric lights.  Back later!

[Hours later] - It started off very nicely - as it began getting dark, there were no irritatingly over-bright streetlights to ruin the magic of the sunset, and the houses and apartments were strangely devoid of electric lights.  There was even a near-full moon in the sky!

As I walked along, I noticed that some people appeared to be hurrying home with more urgency than usual (to get there before darkness fell - like in the old-old-old days), and when I passed other males out walking, we eyed each other suspiciously "What is this suspicious looking male doing out walking around as darkness falls...?" we each seemed to think (I was half thinking that, and half amused at the sudden reversion to a deep-dark-woods way of thinking.

I headed over to a shotengai street and noted that the convenience store was still doing business - without the cash registers and by the light of the dim emergency lighting in the ceiling, and the bank's ATM section was operating with full blindingly bright banks of florescent lights blasting away, the heating blasting hot air, the machines operational, and the recorded voice at the door welcoming you as you come in.  "Hmm... either they're wired into something different than the other buildings in the neighborhood, or they've got a liquid-energy fueled generator up on the roof generating their own power..."

Then I walked over to a railway and noted that their signal lights were all on, which stood to reason - being an electric railway, they're not only wired differently than the areas they pass through, but are an exception to the blackout I think.  What I hadn't expected, was there were several blindingly bright street lights along the railway, particularly at crossings - which makes sense enough, but it took away from the novelty of being outside in a world suddenly without electricity - when it was only 95% without electricity.

And then there were the headlights of the cars, the flashing LED lights of cyclists, etc.  So, I began by feeling excited at the idea of seeing part of Tokyo - for the first time in my life - purely by moonlight, but ended up observing that you can't get away from very bright lights in Tokyo - even in a blackout!

Lyle (Hiroshi) Saxon

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