Nuclear Refugee Korea

Last week I came to Seoul, South Korea a week ahead of schedule because of an earthquake and the following nuclear crisis. My Japan visa was ended 3 days ago but the rising threat of nuclear radiation caused me to get out a week earlier. I feel like a nuclear refugee.

check out the ridiculously small phone they gave me at the rental place at the airport.

There are tons of Japanese signs and places that cater towards Japanese people in Seoul. Here is what looks like the Japanese version of the crown hotel in Itaewon. When i see Japanese people here they look clueless, too nice, and easy targets for various crimes. Probably because Japan is like candy land with no crime. the worst thing that could happen there is your icecream will fall on the immaculately clean sidewalk and then you can just eat it anyway.

i love this banana milk

is there a place on earth where they wear more converse all stars then in Seoul? these three girls were not friends. just a random sample.

Jongno Tower, a 33 story office building. Also I must comment on how Korean people are super rude. I knew this when i lived here when i was 21 but i guess it didnt really matter to me then. over the course of this day many people bumped/slammed into me and i can see why Koreans want to fight everyone all the time if thats how they roll in this country. I want to fight everytime someone bumps me with no apology.

청계천 Cheonggyecheon is a stream/public recreation space in downtown Seoul opened in 2005 and is popular with Seoul peeps.

the official Korea tourism guide says this is the largest ceramic tile painting in the world. it definitely is long. Its of King Jeongjo's royal procession.

flanking the stream is Gwangjang market, an old school market with food stalls, fabric stores, etc... I like this part of Korea better than the modern part. maybe thats why i like china so much.

can't really tell but this thing was huge. a lot bigger than your standard bike to cart stuff around with.

pig snouts.

i love this kind of stuff way more than eating in a fancy restaurant surrounded by d-bags

i ate ddeokbokki.

somehow under the yellow stuff all the benches were heated which was awesome cuz it was freezing out.

here is an example of why you should shoot in RAW format. #1 is the original RAW, it looks totally unusable. #2 is jpeg and has been restored in photoshop to the limit. #3 is the RAW file adjusted with the RAW importer and its almost useable! The moral of the story is that you can restore a lot of light information with RAW but almost none with jpeg. this was a mentally ill guy with a saxophone inside the market.

how many ladies do you think this guy pulls down with this jacket? Hanyang Tech division of computer science and engineering? Hot

As a nuclear refugee wrapped up in a thermal blanket, shivering, holding a paper cup full of hot coffee, this is a sight to behold. Yoons fellow embassy buddy next door made blue cheese steak and corn and other american BBQ food and it was awesome to eat an American volume of food.

a box full of kimbap can be had for like $4.50 awesome.

an open invitation to Yoon sitting on his coffee table.

earlier this winter i was on the cover of this magazine. Yoon bought a copy for me. Its pretty cool to see it in person in the country you're in.

I am slowly, very slowly cleaning up my life and getting ready for my campaign in the European theater. Big things include, cleaning up my computer and making it not suck so bad, finally setting up a quicken invoicing/finances system, learning spanish, getting international health insurance again, watching Spain, UK, and French themed movies, learning about those 3 countries, go to Busan and Jeju Do in Korea, get out in seoul and take pictures, wrap everything up with Japan and friends, and of course various illustration commissions that are always coming in. oh and try to relax. its gonna be a busy month.

Earthquake Japan 3.11.11 Internet photos

Here are select photos that i grabbed from the Life magazine Boston Globe websites. I'm posting because this has been a significant thing for me in 2011 and after seeing these, and videos, and the news, etc... I can no longer complain about anything ever again, none of us can. Most of the super bad damage pictures are from the north around sendai and miyagi prefectures. Tokyo wasn't hit very badly by the earthquake and didn't get the tsunami at all. We had electricity, internet, food, water, phone service the whole time. In the north they had none of this, many still don't have it, and at this point 10,000 people died. At one school 70% of the children died as they were outside doing their standard earthquake procedure and stood no chance when the sudden tsunami wave hit. Maybe these photos will take you beyond the "looking at a car crash but just can't look away" thing and into evaluating your own life, luck, and thankfulness for what you have, and also the frailty of quickness, and randomness that life can be taken, or even disrupted for months, years, forever. I'll have a special connection to this event for the rest of my life because i was in Japan, in Tokyo. What happened in tokyo is only 0.1% of how bad it was in the north. So i can't even pretend, i don't even know a fraction of what it feels like. I sound like a giant baby right now, but if its like this for me, it's unimaginable for what it's like for them in the north.

Oil refinery in Chiba prefecture next to tokyo, lots of people live in Chiba and commute to tokyo everyday. close

a whole town gutted. these towns all remind me of fumika's town and that thought doesn't feel good.

vehicles on the tops of 3 story buildings.

burned cars in ibaraki, next to tokyo.

nothing left.

there are at least 9,997 more of these and growing.

next to tokyo. the no entry symbols on the gates adds to the power of this photo.

this bridge acted as a giant bath drain catcher. imagine being on it.

this is a big fear for me and most people during an earthquake, wondering if the earth really can separate and swallow you. This is a road in saitama which is not technically tokyo but basically is. i've been there a bunch of times.

i can't even imagine what this guy is thinking.

they say if you are outside you should stay away from stone and concrete walls. Here is a good example why.

People in the north still live in these. How long will it go on? there is still water and food rationing going on.

tons of people can't get their medications and other medical attention that they need to live.

this is the only nuclear reactor concerned picture. If the earthquake and tsunami weren't enough, 3 nuclear power plants might have been melting down. it seemed rediculous to me that they resorted to dumping water into the reactors with giant buckets and helicopters. they did this after i had already made it to Korea.

the nuclear fears caused this scene at narita airport in tokyo everyday for a week. i witnessed it first hand. all these people are waiting to check in. it took 2 hrs for me to check in.

its pretty heartbreaking to hear and see the stories at the people level. a firefighter losing his whole family after he went out to go save others. Doctors who can't save anyone because they have nothing to work with, people dying because their medicine is in their flattened homes, and it goes on and on. i think as americans we can't even understand fully how this feels. Japan is a homogeneous society, at least 95% Japanese, so there is a super strong bond that in America we don't feel because we're all mixed up. This has got to make it hurt ever more for them. I can't imagine one unified heart and soul in american beating as one with pain and emapathy for their fellow countrymen, and thats probably because we don't have just one group of people in america. My heart goes out to Japan.  日本がんばって!

Japan Earthquake 3.11.11

A 9.0 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Japan on Friday March 3rd, 2011 at 2:46 Japanese time. The epicenter was 45 miles east of the largest Island, Honshu. It triggered a tsunami with waves reaching 33 feet in height which reached up to 6 miles inland. As of today there are almost 10,000 deaths and 16,000 missing. It's one of the 5 most powerful earthquakes since recorded history. The nearest major city Sendai was 81 miles away, Tokyo was 232 miles away. There was a 7.2 magnitude foreshock on March 9th while i was in Mie at fumikas house but I don't know if anyone thought anything of it because I didn't feel it or hear anything about it. Japan has so many quakes that it has another scale to measure quakes called the Shindo scale. Its based on the amount of shaking at the point as opposed to the total magnitude. This is important because the magnitude scale can't tell you the strength of the earthquake for specific cities or areas, just everything in total. It was the maximum shindo 7 in places closest to the quake center, and upper shindo 5 in tokyo. The earthquake we experienced at the earthquake simulation room in Ikebukuro was a shindo 6.0 and it shook so much you couldn't stand up. I was in Ebisu, Tokyo at the time. Wikipedia says that 1 minute before the quake hit the earthquake warning system sent out a warning but no one heard it where i was. The following tsunami caused more damage than the quake. Then came the nuclear crisis that continues even now over a week later.

I was in the midst of the hugest and more backbreaking advertising project i have ever worked on and my ever work on involving drawing over 3,000 animals with a super tight deadline. It's a $17,000 project! I can't F it up! My visa would be over and I was slated to leave Japan in 2 weeks, 4 days before that was the deadline for the project. I had no time to meet people to say sayonara to them but i had to meet some people. I met my friend Jennifer in Ebisu for a quick lunch when everything started shaking. for about 15 seconds it was just shaking like many small quakes we have experienced before, then it got stronger and we were wondering "are you serious, are we really supposed to knock chairs over and get under the table dramatically for this medium shaking?" it kept getting stronger and then the staff told everyone to go outside, moments later i could hear glasses inside falling and breaking as it got stronger. i could see tall building flapping back and forth and a chandelier across the street swinging pretty strongly. it was a freaky thing to see. 50% of people were calm and 50% looked freaked out but no one was actually freaking out. it was like standing on a waterbed, and it kept going for a couple minutes. my friend asked me aren't you scared? i was too stupified to be scared, i was thinking "is this the huge devastating quake that is supposed to hit japan in the next 70 years? is this really how its gonna end for me? here in the streets of Tokyko"? We quickly hurried home not knowing that was the biggest earthquake to hit Japan. on the bike ride home i saw all the office workers outside the buildings. many people were stranded in tokyo that night due to trains and buses stopping. when i got in front of my building a big aftershock hit. some people were in the street but everyone was going about their business as usual. only a few people looked like they noticed at all. so i ran upstairs to start working.

I came home to some broken dishes and glasses on the kitchen floor and a few things had fallen down in my room. I had the project to work on so i didnt have time to clean up anything. my German roommate Norman had run to the park and came home later. We were two stupid foreigners watching the japanese news barely understanding what was going on. the news online in english wasn't helping. we didnt know what to do. was it over? the aftershocks continued and kept us on edge. were we really supposed to evacuate somewhere? our Japanese roommate Naoki was kept at the office. we laughed at the news casters all wearing helmets on TV. on every station there was a map of japan in the lower right corner with the east coast all flashing red. they kept saying times like 15:15pm, 15:24pm, etc... that something was coming, what's coming? i can't read that kanji!!! it was the tsunami wave. and sometimes they would detect an aftershock and an alarm would go off on the TV, we would both get up, look at each other ready to run to the bathroom if it was a big one (what we deemed to be the safest place in the apartment) and then about 5 seconds later we would feel the aftershocks. this went on all afternoon and night.

I had a seriously tight deadline and couldn't lose anytime so i had to keep working through the aftershocks. we both wore all our clothes and shoes and backpacks and cameras ready to hightail it out of there if need be. it was getting so cold because we couldnt use the gas heaters. I grabbed my laptop and ran to the bathroom to continue working about 20 times since i got back to the apartment. It was kind of funny to see me shoot up, rip the mouse cable out, the speaker cable and power cable out and grab my laptop and run to the bathroom when i felt a big aftershock. There is this big black ikea bookshelf that i didnt affix to the wall with earthquake brackets that i even discussed with bob as an earthquake death trap when he was here. my nerves would have been shot if i worked at my desk all night with that deathtrap looming over me so i had to take it down. now my room looks like it was hit by an earthquake with sh!t strewn all about it including displaced books and half packed suitcases and piles of general garbage getting ready for my move.

my roommate trying to sleep with all his clothes and shoes on under his desk. we both didnt get very much sleep because of the aftershocks that were coming about every 10 to 15 minutes. remember there have been over 600 aftershocks bigger than 4.5 since the big quake and i think it said there were about 200 by this point in the night. disaster TV, and aftershock alarms blared out from the TV all night. finally after total exhaustion from drawing cute animals until the morning and the stress of this natural disaster i got a few hours of sleep.

no this isn't from the earthquake, they already started taking this building down a few days before. they continued work after the quake until about 5pm! its directly across our tiny street. they continued the next day and onward, further adding to the stress everytime i heard a boom or the ground shake from big machinery or things breaking. Also the fact that this is happening to our building next month because our building is like 60 yrs old didn't make me feel at ease either. how many quakes has our building absorbed in 60 yrs? sure it took this big one too but could it take one more? after every big quake like the one in Chile this is always an almost as big aftershock. We were all bracing for that, fearful that every aftershock we felt might be that one.

this whole time i was at my desk drawing, unable to see the news online or on tv because i was seriously drawing the whole time. i even set up a mirror in the living room angled into my room so i could turn my head and see the TV if Norman started shouting about something. this was because my room was like a tetris board filled with my personal garbage and getting out of it to watch TV was hard. not the safest thing for an earthquake right? This ad project could have literally killed me. The exciting live of an illustrator. so i didnt see more than 5 minutes of footage the whole day. Then came the news of the nuclear reactors and their cooling problems and explosions and threat of radiation. i can't remember if it was the next day or the next but that night Norman said he would probably fly back to Germany the next day. I thought, wow, its not that bad. but then the next day i saw on facebook that many of my expat friends had left or were leaving that day or the next day. I thought wow whats going on, maybe i should think about getting out of here a week early from my initial departure date too. but i was struggling with the project and didnt pack yet or say goodbye to anyone and i had a place reserved for a sayonara party. i couldn't lose a day or more to travel to korea. i got a quote from the travel agency that said they could get a ticket to korea the next day for the same price as the one i reserved a month before ($270 one way), that was amazing. I made balled up faces all day at the thought and then finally decided i should go after i saw that there would be rolling blackouts starting the next day for tokyo. 3 hour stints rotating through the different areas of the city. they were also expecting a 7.0 aftershock in the next 3 days. Ultimately, like most people, it was the fear of nuclear radiation that was the final straw. and it seemed like big after shocks kept striking cities that were getting closer and closer to tokyo, and i couldnd take any chances of this $17,000 project getting f'd up. I got the reservation but never got issued the e-ticket. i sent a few emails in the night trying to see what was happening with no answer. the travel agency was swamped by the mass exodus of expats and japanese alike. i sent a message out to some good friends saying that because of the current situation and an insane deadline i had to leave japan tommorow and if they could meet i would be in ebisu having a drink with my roommate. Norman ended up flying to osaka instead of germany by then so my roommate naoki, satoko, aoi, misa, and shintaro came to ebisu to meet me.

Most friends were stranded at home due to trains stopping, and also the heightening fears of nuclear radiation. i've seen these giant tuna jaw bones around but never got the chance to try one. they are awesome. they're kind of like eating ribs, only its fish. you gotta try it.

there is a lot of meat on these and if you've seen a huge bluefin tuna at the fish market you can imagine that their jawbones are huge! this was an occasion for everyone to drink and relax after days of being on edge from the disasters.

after the izakaya was an epic and maybe the most fun Karaoke session ever. it was just the 4 of us, my first time at Karaoke with Naoki and Satoko. they kept calling the room to tell us we had 10 more minutes and we kept extending for 30 more minutes. we might have sung for 4 hrs i think. After that we all went back to my house because the girls said they would help me pack, which i hadn't really done at at all. they are too nice!

no this isn't from the earthquake either. earlier that day i was in a mad rush to draw, pack, get tickets, contact friends, and avoid aftershocks. i bought this goodluck arrow that you've seen on the blog in the new year at a shrine in tokyo. its too long to fit in a suitcase or box. what was i to do? it has white paper wrapped around the middle so i thought i have no choice but to cut it in half, and assemble and wrap new white paper around the cut seam back in new york someday when i go back. This is the most extreme stupid foreigner no-no that i have committed in Japan or any foreign country thus far. I told my friends that night over beers and tuna jaw-bone the situation and what i had done. All of them in synchronization cried out, covered their ears, and basically looked like i had raped their cat. They said that was absolutely horrible and horrible bad luck. it seemed like it meant even more than just bad luck because they were physically hurting when i told them, like that its not bad luck just for me but for them and the universe and like i had cut all of the shinto gods in half or something. I is so sorry. I stupid, I no know. I'm sorry for single handedly causing the greatest earthquake in Japan by cutting this arrow in half with scissors and then a steak knife. they cringed even more when i told them i used a steak knife.

you just looked at this picture. now you will have bad luck and also the guilt of causing a tsunami

Ai's mom gave me the yukata i wore in the summer for the Awa Odori festival. it was Ai's brother's. she wrapped it up so nicely and tied it and then i messes it up. Yukatas are made of cotton. the belt is from fumika's mom. Japanese people are too nice to me. i will never tell their moms of the arrow.

after the packing everyone was dead, but they could go home and sleep, i had to continue onward to the post office and to the airport. first i had to find packing tape for the boxes because i had used it all on my gachapin halloween costume. g-damn it! i gave my bike to Aoi and she rode it home because I wouldn't need it again (i'm sure after 3 seconds found out how much it sucks) so i couldn't wheel the boxes over on that, i had to carry them, heavy stuff. i went to all the combinis and stores in my area and all the packing tape was sold out! what gives! all the bread and other stuff was sold out for days also. Finally i got to the post office. Lots of people have these earthquake detection applications on their phones so you will be out and suddenly people's phones will start making that alarm sound and everyone will look at each other and wait for it, and 5 seconds later you'll feel the aftershock. Then go about their day. Kind of un-nerving. This happened when i was at the post office. the phone in the woman's vest pocket at the counter went off and we looked at each other with big eyes waiting for it to hit. there was a tiny shake and then we went back to business. The school kids were wearing hard hats on their way to school. hard hats are big in Japan.

it was like this the day before too. not because of aftershock fear but nuclear fear and rolling blackouts. by this point it was 30 min before i had to leave. i finally got an email from the travel agency saying that the ticket for today didn't come through and that i got a flight for tommorow! ASDFE#dkdsa! i slept for 3 hrs and got up and started working furiously again.

I hadn't slept and was working the whole time basically. my roommate naoki came home and we ate yakiniku at this famous place the the street from us that we were always supposed to eat at. I had already said goodbye that morning and the ticket got messed up so i would say goodbye again. yakiniku is korean food and i was flying there in the morning but this place is super high quality meat. thanks for this amazing dinner!

yukkei, raw meat and raw egg. its the bomb.

after a super frustrating exchange with the super unhelpful narita airport people i determined that i had to throw away one of my suitcases and mail the stuff to paris and spain, depending on how soon i thought i would need the stuff. my bike was already gone the first morning when i carried 3 boxes to the post office and now i had to take 2 more. what a sweaty time, and the whole time breathing heavy i was wondering if i was breathing radiation deep into my lungs. in the morning i had to figure out how to get to the airport. i called the limousine bus and they said cuz of the situation they didn't know if there would be buses and i have to call in the morning. same with the trains. Satoko again saved me and called me in the morning to tell me the keisei train to the airport was working. it was pretty hard to take my huge suitcase, super overweight and over stuffed carry on suitcase, super overweight backpack, and super overweight x-large canvas totebag to the airport. at one point getting off one of the trains, my cordless phone popped out of a bag and onto the tracks. finally at the airport i was met with this impossibly long line to check in to korean airlines. also there was a big aftershock while we were all waiting in line. what a shame if the big one hit while i was waiting in line at the airport, so close to the goal.

you can't really see but it goes all the way around the corner. this is about the middle of the line. it took 2 hrs to be able to check in. b!ches were b!ashsjsding and everyone was pissed. Koreans are pretty sassy and dramatic and rude so it wasn't good. i saw a grandma push a guy in line after one tiff. by the time i got to the check in counter the plane had taken off an hour ago. Stress! standing stress. could tokyo be getting more radiated as we wait in line? all the flights were over booked so everyone was getting bumped and everyone was pissed. i hadn't slept in 2 days so i was done and i knew there was nothing that could be done because all the foreigners were leaving so just said ok and took the $100 they were giving everyone for the bumped flight. i got a flight 2 hrs later.

I finally arrived in Seoul safely and am at Yoon's house inside the yongsan army base. this is shot in yoons house cuz i didnt have time to take pics of these in tokyo. i got this lil guy in kyoto.

and i got this ear picker drum thing in kyoto so i could make the annoying drum sound all day. there's an inu hariko on one side and a monkey on the other.

i thought the pamphlet from the kukurizaru monkey shrine in kyoto was pretty funny.

wikipedia says up until now there have been over 600 aftershocks of magnitude 4.5 since the initial big quake. The nuclear reactors have had continued problems, explosions, releases of gases, and other problems. they were using sea water, fire hoses, and helicopter drops to get water into reactors to cool them down. It was and still is a desparate situation. The government wasn't giving out much helpful information so what the public didn't know is what scared the foreigners out of japan. they finally got them out! it didn't take ridiculous visa and immigration policies, it just took the threat of nuclear meltdown, easy. today they said the water in tokyo now has enough radioactive iodine that infants shouldn't drink it and the sale of milk and spinach from areas near the reactors is banned. they keep saying everything won't have an immediate effect. chinese people have bought up all of the iodized salt in china thinking it will save their thyroids. who knows how bad things really are or if they're ok. The world is losing interest in the japan disaster and are moving on to the Libya revolution and no-fly zone. even in Seoul, a week later, sometimes it feels like the earth is moving. will i have earthquake trauma for the rest of my life like i have smoke trauma after my roommate in harlem burned a pot on the stove so i woke up suddenly to black smoke filling my room? i frequently wake up suddenly and "see smoke" and then my eyes adjust and i realize i have smoke fear for the rest of my life. I hope the earthquake one goes away.

In conclusion, what a horrible week. looking forward i don't know what could be more stressful than this natural disaster, constant threat of nuclear radiation and aftershocks, the biggest project i'll ever work on deadline, having to move out of the country, and saying goodbye to my friends and wrapping things up in that country. I couldn't say goodbye to anyone. but i cannot complain. we had power and electricity and water and food in tokyo. the poor people in the north suffered badly and still stuffer now. it's unbelievable and so sad to hear their stories, all happening in my dream country. I was my dream to live in Japan. I don't feel good about leaving Japan, even if it was just a week before my intended plan. It feels like i ran away and left my Japanese friends there in a time of need. I am sending out my sonic love waves towards Japan. This was the worst sayonara ever. Keep fighting Japan! 日本がんばって!