PauseTalk Next Week

I figure a lot of people are probably wondering whether there will be a PauseTalk next week or not — considering all of the events that have been cancelled of late — and after having spoken with the Cafe Pause manager, we’ve decided to go ahead and have one. Since the earthquake and following a week of being closed, the cafe has been open only until 17:00, and from today it will be closing at 20:00, but on the date of PauseTalk Vol. 49 (Monday, April 4) it will be open until 23:00 (the PauseTalk start time, as always, will be 20:00).

I know many of you are still not venturing out at night as much, but please know that I’ll be there, and it would be nice to have a nice group to share thoughts on what’s happened, and how we all move forward from it.

OPEN Japan Relief

I mentioned in my charity post that OPEN Skateboards were donating proceeds of all deck sales to disaster relief, and now Ian has gone and designed a new deck (above) specifically to help raise funds — you can pre-order it now (sorry, they couldn’t get an official release date on it yet).

The image on the left is the bottom, and the one on the right (the top) will be red paint on black stained wood.

Gundam Will Save Us

I was tweeting on how I hope that robotic research will now see a push into emergency and rescue-ready “mobile suits,” instead of the glorified house servants we tend to see (which I realize have their use, in aiding the ederly). Then my friend Kat replied with the image above. Yes, exactly, imagine what one of those could have achieved during this past week’s disasters.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Although focus today is on the nuclear emergency, there are still so many in the north of the country that are in need of help — half a million were displaced following the first big quake, I believe. To donate money, there’s the Japan Red Cross, and the Japan Society is taking donations directly, with 100% going towards aid (no admin fees).

Below, I’m posting things that are being sold to help raise funds for disaster relief, many organized by friends. Every bit helps, and if buying goods is a necessary incentive, so be it.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Luis Mendo’s first city report on Tokyo.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Art Space Tokyo, all sales until the end of March.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Decks by OPEN Skateboards. Ian Lynam has also designed a new deck specifically to raise funds, which you can pre-order here.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Everything sold on Ian Lynam’s Wordshape online store.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

The MuPon museum coupons app by Tokyo Art Beat.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Poster by W+K Tokyo.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Shugo Tokumaru has a digital track for sale (“Open a Bottle”).

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

A Salvation Army t-shirt designed by Joshua Smith.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Poster by Editions of 100.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Leather bracelet by Corter Leather.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

All magazine orders from the MagCulture shop until March 18.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Furoshiki (here and here) designed by LINK, Hennie Haworth, and Lucinda Newton Dunn, until the end of March.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

Print Okushon, a site set up to auction off designer prints.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

A postcard series by Eloise Rapp.

Japan Earthquake Disaster Relief

T-shirts by Osaka-based Sweatshop Union.

I switched over my avatar on Twitter and Facebook to one of these images, to raise awareness. Here’s also a bunch of images/posters by Japanese designers, to raise awareness of energy conservation measures that are currently in full effect.

What Has Happened

Let me start by saying that I’m writing this not to add noise to all the useful info getting out there, but because I’ve been contacted by countless concerned people about what happened with me, and what is going on. Here’s my story.

As I had mentioned in a recent post, we were heading for a trip to Vietnam and Cambodia, and ended up being on the Narita Express train — a train that goes directly from Ikebukuro, where I live, to the airport — when the first big quake hit. because we were still within Tokyo, the train wasn’t going too fast, and so was able to stop very quickly, and we were left rocking from side-to-side. They then started making announcements about the earthquake. Looking outside, we could see that people had come out of nearby buildings. With aftershocks coming regularly, they continued to announce that we were stopped because of the earthquake with no idea on when we could resume, and then shut down the electricity. About an hour later, they finally did an emergency evacuation of the train, having us climb out on ladders, and proceeded to walk us to the nearest station, which was Gotanda. If anything, I’m thankful that this happened before we’d left Tokyo or had arrived at the airport, as being stuck out there would have been much worse.

The train was filled with travelers from China and Hong Kong, who couldn’t understand any of the Japanese-only announcements, and so my wife acted as translator on the train, and continued to do so with the staff as we all headed to the station. 

When we got to the station, the Japan Railways staff were as confused as everyone. But it was clear that no one was going to get to the airport, nevermind to catch any flight. My wife started helping people to find nearby hotels. Not knowing what to do, and with phones already down, we decided to go to a nearby family restaurant (Jonathan’s) and have something to eat — we hadn’t had a proper meal yet all day, and it was getting close to 17:00 — and to try and get our bearings. 

As I’ve tweeted, my lifeline really was Twitter. Although voice functionality was down, my phone still had data access, and though I was having trouble loading up websites, the relatively low amount of bandwidth used by Twitter was fine. Most of my info came through all of the retweets coming from Sandra Barron (@sandrajapandra) — funny enough, I’d only started following her a few days previous, after having met her at last Monday’s PauseTalk.

I was tweeting my situation, and also made sure to email my parents (back in Canada) so that they wouldn’t be worried after seeing the news. For some reason, my tweets were not coming out on Facebook as they usually do, and a friend from back home let me know that other friends were worried about my situation. The Facebook app was not letting me post a status update, but I was able to post a note instead — I’m told that the message was published in my hometown’s newspaper, as part of their cover story on the quake.

It got to a point where we were worrying how we’d get back home — which is obviously how everyone in the city was feeling. Encumbering us were our suitcases, and also the fact that we were dressed lightly, since we were heading to warmer weather. Through @replies and direct messages, I was first invited to go and hang out at the AQ office in Aoyama, and then later received offers to stay the night from my friends Oliver, Andrew, and Paul — we took up Paul on his offer, since his place in Shirokanedai was the closest walk.

It was only once we got to Paul’s place and started watching TV that we were able to take in the extent of the destruction in the north. And we were all still worried because aftershocks continued to be regular (and they continue as I write this), but it was good to be with friends — Chris, Eiko, and Tomomi later joined us, walking over from the AQ office.

Sleeping in a room on the 3rd floor, we continued to sway throughout the evening. Even though calls had been impossible throughout the night, at around midnight my wife reached our travel agency, and there was still staff there taking calls — that’s Japan for ya. We were able to cancel our trip, and will receive a full refund (although we’re going to try and reschedule for later this month). Funny enough, they told us that we could either cancel, or try to go to the airport the following day and negotiate with ANA — the airline we were using — to see if they could get us on a plane. Yeah, right.

We were also worried about our dog, who was staying with our local vet (they offer “hotel” services). Although we couldn’t call, we managed to get in touch by email, and learned that everyone there was fine, including all the animals.

On Saturday, after we found out that most of the trains were running again (at least within Tokyo), we headed back home around lunch time. Once we got back to Ikebukuro, everything seemed relatively normal. We couldn’t pick up our dog until 17:00 — the vet closes during the afternoon — and so we headed back home to take in the damage. I was worried about what we’d see when getting there, after having seen photos from friends’ homes and offices through Twitter. Also, our house being over 50-year-old, it’s not exactly earthquake-proof. Luckily, there wasn’t much more than what our dog has done in the past. We later went to the grocery store to stock up on food — since we were heading for a trip, our house was pretty much empty — and despite the photos and reports of empty shelves I’d been seeing, it was pretty much business as usual at our local Seiyu, if only for a lack of fresh produce.

After stocking up, we were later reunited with our dog, and we’ve been staying at home since. We’re pretty much all holed up in one room, in part to conserve energy — they are reporting that this will be a problem, and that they will probably start rolling blackouts tomorrow. We’re all good, and there’s no need to worry about us — it’s really just the north that was devastated, and the way Tokyo was affected is mostly in terms of stoppage of public transportation, and issues with supplies being delivered (which explains the empty shelves in convenience store and supermarkets). We’re of course all nervous because aftershocks continue, and there’s the situation with the nuclear plants. 

For now, we wait at home, follow the news — Japanese TV, Twitter, and the NHK World live streaming app on iPad — and wait for things to stabilize. Thank you everyone who has been in touch with concern — through email, Twitter, and Facebook.

PauseTalk Vol. 48

First of all, thanks to all who made it to this week’s PauseTalk Vol. 48. It was a small gathering — in fact, for the first 20 minutes or so it was just me and Edward — but eventually a few more people showed up, and you’ll find most of them listed below. But this low attendance made me realize something — it’s always the editions that have a very limited number of people that I end up enjoying the most, and that’s because it really gives us a chance to talk together and find out more about each other. I always feel like I get way more out of those intimate sessions, and connect on a deeper level with other attendees. If I worry at all about a low attendance it’s because I don’t want others to feel like they’re not getting what they expected (which is the average crowd of 20 or so). But for me, it’s all good, and in the future I’ll be looking forward to more of these more casual editions of PauseTalk. 

Before I get to the list of participants, let me also announce that I’ve finally decided to make the PauseTalk concept (name, format, etc.) available for use by anyone, under a Creative Commons license. There will be be no need to ask me permission to organize a PauseTalk event, although I’ll be happy if you let me know that you’re doing one, just out of curiosity. By the end of the month I’ll be preparing a document — and extended FAQ, if you will — that will lay out what I see a PauseTalk event being about, and how it should be run (or at least how I run it), and it will be available in PDF form (and probably on the PauseTalk website as well). The main reason I’m doing this is because every once in a while I get asked about this kind of thing, and so I figured why not just let anyone do one.

Below, a partial list (but almost complete) of those who attended PauseTalk Vol. 48. The next edition, Vol. 49, will be happen April 4.

Get Me Outta Here

Having the absolute worse case of seasonal allergies since I’ve come to Japan — the magic pills I always take, Alesion, just aren’t doing their thing it seems this year. Good thing I’ll be out of the country for a few days, starting tomorrow. For the first time, I’ll be taking in Vietnam and Cambodia with my wife. It’s just a short 5-day trip, but it’ll be nice to be somewhere else during that time. Although I’m bringing my iPad with me — my first time traveling one, and I’m blown away with how much I’ll have to keep me busy on the flight, as long as the battery doesn’t fail me — I should be mostly offline, and so don’t expect any replies to emails and the like until I’m back on Wednesday.

Funding for The City Reporter

There’s a good chance you’ve already heard of Luis Mendo‘s The City Reporter series — I’ve shared the love on this site in the past, and have handed out a self-published edition of the Tokyo map at one of last year’s PauseTalks. Luis is coming back to Tokyo in early April for a couple of weeks, and the reason is because we want to work together on a new edition of the Tokyo report, one that will be more detailed and cover more of the city. We’re currently looking for sponsorship/funding on the project — mostly to help cover Luis’ expenses, but also to get it out there (print or digital). If you are someone who could help on this, do not hesitate to get in touch, we are open to all ideas and initatives.

In the meantime, do take a look at what Luis had done in the past with the other cities he’s visited, bringing to life lovely illustrated takes on each one.

PauseTalk Vol. 47

I’m very late on this, and for that I apologize, but here’s the partial attendance list (those who signed up on the attendance sheet) for last month’s PauseTalk Vol. 47 (held February 7). If you’ll remember, it was the first editon following a two-month hiatus, and I think we all had a fun time. The talk was great, and it really felt like most of those who attended participated in the discussion — reminded me of why I started doing this in the first place.