Tokyo: The giant TVs are silent, the neon
lights dark and the bars of Tokyo half-empty. Two weeks after
Japan`s deadly earthquake, the city that once never slept is
learning to live with a new era of frugality.
Many public escalators are idle, the trains less
frequent and the usually overflowing shelves of the
round-the-clock convenience stores sparsely stocked.
In the daytime, under the crisp winter skies, the city
almost seems to have recovered from the shock of the massive
March 11 earthquake which sent a huge tsunami crashing into
northeast Japan and triggered a nuclear crisis.
But nightfall reveals the reality -- a fortnight after
the twin disaster struck, the capital is still a shadow of its
Nowhere is the contrast more evident than in the
usually vibrant teen fashion district of Shibuya.
The huge television screens and illuminated billboards
that usually light up one of the world`s busiest pedestrian
intersections are lifeless -- victims of an energy crunch that
is expected to drag on for weeks if not months.
Even the normally ubiquitous store workers with
loudhailers are absent.
"It`s almost too much. It doesn`t seem like Shibuya
anymore," said student Shiyo Suzuki, hanging out with his
friends near the statue of Hachiko, a dog famed for his
loyalty, a traditional meeting place by Shibuya station.
The shops close earlier than usual, leaving apologetic
signs that ask for the understanding of those clients who do
arrive at their doors.
"Before the earthquake, there were many customers
between 7 and 8 pm, but now they go home earlier," said one
saleswoman at a men`s clothing shop.
The taxi drivers, known for their white gloves and
doors which swing open at the touch of a button, are also
feeling the pinch.
"We have no passengers. People don`t go out or they go
home early by train," one driver lamented.
In normal times the capital`s myriad bars and
restaurants brim with office workers letting off steam after a
long day in the office.
But few are in the mood for socialising these days and
food safety is a major concern since abnormally high levels of
radiation from a tsunami-crippled nuclear plant were detected
in food and even tap water.
"I avoid going to restaurants because of the problems
with food and vegetables found to contain radioactive
substances," said one 38-year-old company worker.
Nobody knows when life will return to normal for the
35 million residents of the greater Tokyo area, even if
conditions are immeasurably better than those endured by
survivors in the quake and tsunami zone further north.