Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
from Ben Gruber:
People have been asking me about my recent coverage of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, wondering what sticks out in my memory. After some reflection, one part of my experience keeps rising to the top - the mountain tunnels.
The Reuters multimedia team was based in the north-east town of Tono, a small mountain town situated above the coastline. Tono had an eerie feeling to it, almost all of the shops and restaurants were closed. But you wouldn't know the town had been rocked by a massive earthquake. There were no physical signs.
Every morning we would wake up early and pile into cars for the drive down to the coast.
To get from Tono to the coastal areas you need to drive through several massive tunnels, some stretching as long as 5kms. These tunnels would normally be well lit and ventilated but that wasn't the case any longer. They were pitch black inside and even with the windows shut tight; you couldn't help but get extremely nauseous from petrol fumes.
Japanese weather forecasters might have been expected to be cheery after a tsunami that hit the country’s coast on Sunday proved smaller than feared.
Instead, the agency apologised for “crying wolf” when it urged some 1.5 million people to evacuate ahead of a possible major tsunami.
It was also a reminder of the advantages of Japan’s intense preparation for if – or when — the “Big One” does indeed come. As usual, train lines immediately stopped service while media reports of the quake and its Japanese scale rating of “4″ flashed within moments of the long temblor. Email and twitter-ing would have reached that magnitude when the Richter scale numbers were broadcast overseas.