I found myself staring at the form requesting days off retroactively - what to put in the blank under "reason for leave request"? Cramp-inducing fear? Possibility of nuclear destruction?
In addition to these concerns, my secretary has been using her beauty mister per usual. I can't help wondering whether she is using bottled water for it and feeling indignant at the waste, or using tap water, thus making me feel resentful that she is pumping out her own little radioactive cloud over the partition.
She also has the earthquake alarm on her phone set to scare-the-shit-out-of-me loud, and I have been treated to its screams every now and then when an aftershock has rolled in during the work day. On a related note, I have mine set to 5 (Japanese scale) and over - I do not need to know about anything lower than that.
On the day we found out the nuclear reactor broke, people looked at each other with wide eyes as they reached for their coats and tried to quickly tidy things up before taking off. One Professional had the gall to try and get some of us to do work after receiving the notice. He preempted his request with an acknowledgement that we were all to leave the office shortly, but could we not possibly get this one thing done first? I politely brushed off the request. I believed I would be coming back to the office eventually and so resisted the urge to tell him where to stick it.
Throughout that afternoon and evening, a stream of automated "disaster safety" emails came in, not saying much at all except to await further instructions. At long last, a longer explanation came through: the Kaisha had not received any special information prompting the call to leave the office but as a result of careful consideration of several factors (among them the nuke situation and the messed up public transportation), it had been deemed best to empty the office for the rest of the day. Barring any negative developments, we would receive word to come to the office as usual the following morning at 6am. For the next few days until my scheduled trip, I received an email in the morning telling me to come in, to which I replied that I simply could not. In case you are wondering, I had already booked and had approved a week off for my trip, but for those extra days I was at home with the curtains drawn and my hair getting knotty, I had to use some of my precious paid holidays (an umbrella term for days to be used for both vacation and sickness - there is no differentiation). The Kaisha has also taken a hard line when it comes to asking for unpaid vacation in the event I run out of days. Fear of nuclear meltdown is not a plausible appeal to this rule.
I understand where this stems from (blind stoicism), and I don't really blame the Kaisha. On the other hand, expecting the few foreign nationals you employ who do not speak Japanese to be able to soldier on with little information to go on (those disaster safety emails only started being translated into almost passable English about ten emails in) is an unforgiving stance. If similar shit had gone down overseas, you can bet the Japanese living there would be on the first plane out. Again though, this is not really about whether you should stay or not, but the level of tolerance surrounding what a person decides to do in order to feel safe. There was no precedence here and no contingency plan for how to carry on with business after something like this happens. I'm lucky I had planned and announced my trip for the sole reason that to the Kaisha it didn't look as if I was running away.
In the Kaisha bathroom it is also business as usual. I got Sound Princessed several times, which is when you are peeing for all to hear and someone in a neighboring stall turns on the old SP to silence you. I was pretty fucked off. Here we are in a crisis and these women are still concerned about another woman hearing them pee. Not to mention the power that could be saved if we all forwent the SP. One of these days I am going to unplug all the toilets. I can't wait.
I am used to the relative dimness around the Kaisha now. With the exception of signs telling us to buy our own bottled water and tea, it all looks quite normal. Until, of course, a big after shock comes, prompting a piercing overhead speaker to announce several moments prior that a fair amount of shaking is expected so please ready yourselves. Then during the shaking, the speaker keeps telling you to remain inside the building. Eventually the swaying stops and the speaker tells you to await information on any fires and then that the elevators have been stopped. I can appreciate the knowledge of an earthquake before it happens, but that alarm has got to go before I end up doing more damage than letting out a drop of pee.
I will admit to googling information about my office building, its age, and how up to date its earthquake architecture is. This is not stuff I want to know and it is not going to aid in any decision. I am here to stay. It is scary but what are the alternatives? Go somewhere and get hit by a car? No, I will stay. I think I am finally starting to think like a Tokyo resident, or at least a stellar Kaisha-ite.