A view from the sidelines

Well I feel like I am watching a suspense/horror film that just won’t end. Since the 9.0 earthquake last Friday, life has become a series of news reports that keep us all on the edge of our seats. The Tsunami and resulting chaos is heartbreaking to say the least, but now the main player has become the Fukushima Nuclear power plant. Explosions, leaks, smoke, fires, evacuations, on and on the news just seems to keep getting worse.

I am sure everyone out there is watching the news and knows all the details as well as I do so I won’t spend time trying to report the news. Let me just give you a little view of the mental state of the country.

Everyone is bummed out. That is the best way to put it. Hokkaido has been amazingly spared so far in this disaster, but the mood is not light to be certain. Yesterday, I met someone I know at the parking lot of Asahidake mountain before snowboarding. His comment to me was “lets enjoy snowboarding quietly,” and that pretty much sums up the mood of the country right now.

On the main island and in Tokyo the situation and mood is much worse. I have called a lot of people I know in Tokyo and the stress level seems high. Gasoline is impossible to buy, rice and food staples sold out at stores. Basically everyone went out and stocked up on supplies the same day all across the country so of course everything sold out.

Shipping routes are a mess and supply lines are being redrawn, but it is going to take some time for this to settle down.

The tourist industry has come to a grinding halt. I heard from a friend today that the tourist destination of Lake Akan here in Hokkaido has already received 3800 individual cancellations. The hotel industry is going to take a beating like never before. Here in my little hot springs village the hotels are dark. The largest hotel has 600 beds, but tonight I saw lights on in maybe 20 rooms max. These hotels were all complaining of hard times before all this happened…..so they are really in trouble now. They may have to turn some of those hotels into temporary shelters for all the refugees.

I heard on the radio that the Hokkaido government has organized about 1300 government owned apartments that are not being used around the island. They will make them available to people without homes in the Tohoku area. Great idea, but just a drop in the bucket when 45,000 people are homeless. The whole country is going to need to make some drastic moves very very quickly in order to deal with the number of homeless.

On the winter sports front, basically every event/contest that was planned for the rest of the season has been canceled. It has not been officially announced yet, but the Blueblood “Funday” event planned for April 16th and 17th in Tsugaike has been canceled. The reason for cancellation? The resort is going to close early at the end of this month. As you can imagine no one is going skiing or snowboarding right now, plus the electric companies are looking for anyway possible to lower usage. It takes a lot of electricity to run a ski resort….

I imagine within the next week or two we will hear about a lot more early resort closings. So the riding season is being cut short around the country.

In an attempt to get away from the bad news, I took a short road trip with the Car Danchi crew to Kurodake and Asahidake yesterday and the day before. The weather was really bad the day before yesterday at Kurodake so the mountain was closed. That night we moved to Asahidake and hoped for the best. We got lucky yesterday with fine weather, and some packed powder. I was beautiful out until around 2pm then it clouded up. It felt good to be outside shooting and riding, but it was hard to focus with constant news flashes coming in through my iPhone. Nothing like a nuclear melt down to ruin ones day I’m learning.

There has been a lot of talk about limits on how much gas you can buy at one time.  Two days ago, outside of Asahikawa I was able to get a full tank no problem.

We stopped by cafe “Salt” for a coffee and local info in Higashikawa.

The conditions at Asahidake.

So life rolls on.  Depending on the supply of gasoline over the next few weeks the Car Danchi crews movements may very well be limited.  Will keep you posted.


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