From the Japan Alps

I am still far away from Tokyo, in Matsumoto in the Japan Alps. It`s quiet and peaceful here, despite the terrifying scenes on TV.

Earlier I saw monks and high school students outside the main train station. In temperatures of minus one, and dressed in their bizarre uniforms, they were screaming out for donations to the earthquake relief fund.

In Tokyo I have heard it is calm and orderly, unlike the western media reports. One man living in my guesthouse texted me to say that the only differences to normal are the streets are quieter, and some shops are closing earlier.

I have certainly seen or heard no signs of panic – except in the western media. The Japanese are still going out drinking at night. Hide, a Japanese friend, has spent his evenings in tachinoimyas(small bars) since the crisis. He reckons bars are the best place to find food and drink. Sounds like a good excuse to me.

Away from Tokyo though, there is a huge ongoing humanitarian crisis in the north-east. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless. The temperatures are freezing, and the roads are too damaged to deliver the food and medical supplies required. Unfortunately the radiation story is overshadowing the desperate fight to save lives in the north .

The Japanese spend a lot of time disciplining people. At school, being able to follow instructions is valued more than being clever. At the time, I hated the emphasis on order over independent thinking. But in their calm response to this crisis, I can see the benefit of it now.

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