Out to Lunch

In late February, we visited our favorite local Italian restaurant, Wordsworth, for lunch.

As always, the food was great. We had nice salads with greens and sprouts, and as is common in Japan a few kinds of what us Americans would call "seaweed". Which is about as silly as referring to spinach, romaine or raddichio lettuce as "landweeds". Oh, well.

The main course was pasta with spinach and oysters in cream sauce topped with salmon roe. Delicious!

We of course had not been out since then due to the earthquake(s), but on Sunday I wanted to see if Wordsworth was open. Kimie had driven past it a week ago on her way to visit a family member in hospital and reported a lot of damage in the area. But I wanted to check on Wordsworth, so I bribed her with an offer of lunch and we went.

The restaurant is located about six miles south of us and one mile inland from Kashima Port in the city of Kamisu. It is fairly low lying flat area - easy pickings for a tsunami that was, along this stretch of coastline, up to 5 meters high (16.4 feet).

Along the way, we passed UniQlo clothing store. There were two shipping containers in the parking lot which had floated in from the port and bashed in the store's windows. Containers are still strewn across the landscape and in the canals. The store had also suffered a fire.

From there, we saw lots of buckled pavement, sunken roads with the concrete curbs and drain boxes sticking up, and leaning power poles.

Wordsworth was closed. The patio addition at the front was sunken a bit and the land there was lower by quite a bit relative to the street than it used to be. It had also be flooded. A sad sight. I hope they can recover eventually.

Along the back service road we saw three houses which either due to liquefaction during the earthquake or water from the tsunami, sunk into the ground a bit - one of them a burned out shell.

Ibaraki Net TV took video of the exact same area.

We decided to head toward another restaurant which Kimie's sister had recommended - "tratteria Luce". Judging by what we had already seen, we were not optimistic. But, as we approached we could see the chef/owner standing out by the street waving a huge Italian flag to attract customers.

The owners told us that Kamisu City has electricity, but will not have water service for three months. The restaurant hired a porta-potty to meet legal requirements for a toilet, and is cooking with bottled water. They aren't able to wash dishes so are using paper and plastic ones to get by. By the way, the owner's house is behind and over the restaurant, so they are living day to day with the same conditions.

Lunch was simple, but very good. A chicken wrap, minestrone soup, pasta with tomato sauce, and freshly baked bread. We took the wraps home for later. We'll go there again.

Another news video shows the fishing boat harbor at the entrance to Kashima Port. Pretty much trashed:

The man interviewed said he and his son had to be rescued here. He says it is hard, but "shoganai" - it can't be helped.

And closer to home, the bridge connecting Kashima Jingu Station to the rail line which connects us with Tokyo, is under repair:

The other line out of Kashima - the one I take to lake Hinuma - also has sections out which will take quite a while to repair.

Compared to all this, the damage to our roof, bath tiles, and driveway entrance walls, seems pretty minor. If it were not for the aftershocks, things would almost seem normal. We've been fortunate.

We're looking forward to warm weather, once again sailing Bluesette on Lake Hinuma, seeing our friends up there and eating at Mama's Kitchen again. For now, we hang on and do the best we can, along with the rest of Japan.


The Latest Poop

A cartoon about "Nuclear Boy" explains the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. English subtitles...


Helping Japan - Caveat Donator!

A lot of wonderful people want to help Japan recover from the earthquake/tsunami disaster we have experienced. Before you do, make sure you aren't being scammed, and then make sure that your donation gets spent where you intend.

Scam alert:

I recently stumbled across what I suspect is a big scam. "People" leave comments on news stories about the earthquake, or on stories listing charities to donate to, saying that they have "donated $100 to the American Red Cross" through Amazon.com. The comment also contains the url for a website which posts an article copied from the American Red Cross website, and links and banners with the American Red Cross name. They also say "it is safer to give through a name you know, like Amazon" .... Really?

Trouble is, the website url in the comment offers no information about who is running it. All the links - including "about us" and "contact us" take you back to the main article. Worse, the link for donating goes directly to Amazon payments with no intermediate pages, so for all you know, your donation is going to the owner of the bogus website! I did a little sleuthing and have found that this scheme has been used in the past for the Haiti earthquake disaster.

So, if you want to donate to American Red Cross through Amazon, you can do so, but do it by going directly to either Amazon or the American Red Cross website. Do not use a unknown 3rd party website.

Is your donation going to be used to help Japan?

Also, if you want your donation spent on Japan, you have to make sure of it. Many charities, including reputable ones like the American Red Cross, will be asking for donations by reporting on the disaster in Japan. But be advised, that does not mean they will spend your donation on helping Japan.

So, before you give, please read this article at Charity Navigator: Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The article offers advice on making the decision to give, how to avoid scams, and a list of charities that Charity Navigator has analyzed and rated, which will use your donation to directly help the victims of this tragedy.

By all means, help Japan in this time of crisis, but do so wisely.


Peregrine Falcon

Regular readers know I am a big fan of Shinkansen trains.

The latest addition to JR East (East Japan Railway Company) is the Hayabusa (Peregrine Falcon), a Shinkansen service from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori in the far north of Honshu. The new train, which started service on March 5th, has a top speed of 300 kph (186 mph) and even with stops covers the 675 km in 3 hours 10 minutes.

Here's an ad for the first class service:

Even the regular cars have 5 across seating and are upgraded with a seat pitch of 1,040 cm (41 inches) for plenty of leg room, adjustable head rests, and power outlets at every row for your computer or mobile phone charger.

The newest Shinkansen trains produce a fraction of the greenhouse gasses of aircraft or other forms of transportation while being as fast and even more convenient and comfortable.

The Hayabusa is the world's most energy efficient train, being more than 10% more efficient that previous Shinkansen models. JR East has a target to reduce the company's CO2 emissions by 32% by 2018 and by 50% by 2031. Power to the train comes from a mix of sources including JR East's own hydro-electric plant, their own gas fired thermal plant, and from other companies that use wind, solar, coal, nuclear, and oil.

*post updated 2011/03/10