Greek Australian George Manetakis, who has been living in Japan since 2002, said life is starting to return to normal in the disaster ravaged country. “The general mood here in Tokyo is very positive,” Mr Manetakis told Neos Kosmos. “People seem to want to get back to normalcy and are conducting themselves in an exemplary way”. Mr Manetakis said earthquakes are a “constant feature” of life in Japan, however the vast majority are minor trends that don’t affect daily life.
The earth-shattering 8.9 magnitude quake, and ferocious tsunami which followed, two Fridays ago, has proven a violent and devastating exception to the rule. While there is a general sense of panic, resulting in people stocking up at supermarkets leaving shelves mostly empty, Mr Manetakis said “this has not resulted in a breakdown of civility, and the good manners for which Japanese people are well known is constantly on display”.
Most impressive of all is people are expressing a displeasure at the media’s “the worst is yet to come” reportage, and are instead calling for a more level-headed and considered approach to how the media analyses the situation, Mr Manetakis said. “I think people are hoping to put this behind despite the uncertainty about the Fukushima nuclear power plant and the dozens of aftershocks that continue to put people on their toes”.
Mr Manetakis was working in his office at the Australian embassy in Tokyo when the quake struck. “The earthquake that hit on Friday was by far the most violent I have felt since coming to Japan,” Mr Manetakis said. What started out as a minor tremor gradually built up in strength and continued to do so for about three minutes, he added.
“We regularly carry out fire and earthquake drills at the Embassy and despite most people being shaken, after the earthquake hit everyone filed out of the building in a calm manner,” he said. Following this the Ambassador briefed workers on the information that was available while the Embassy was checked for structural faults. Mr Manetakis’ immediate concern was for the safety of his wife who he was unable to contact as the mobile phone network had been shutdown to allow for emergency use only.
Once back in the Embassy he was able to contact his wife via email and receive a call from his concerned sister in Greece who had seen news footage of the quake. While media coverage has highlighted panic, fear and devastation, Mr Manetakis said not one Austrailan Embassy staff member has left Japan and everyone is working around the clock to ensure that all Australians in Japan are accounted for and safe.
“As for whether I will stay: There is no question that I will,” he said, adding “I have also recieved numerous emails from my friends at the Greek Embassy here who are also doing the same for the Greek community here in Japan”. In the wake of disaster and destruction, acceptance and resilience carry the wounded with the realisation that life must go on.
“Ultimately, innate in all of us, I suspect, is an acknowledgement that we occupy a place on this earth at the mercy of nature,” Mr Manetakis said. “The people of Miyagi Prefecture and the surrounding areas will go back to their lives there in due course just as the people of Christchurch and the flood-ravaged areas of Queensland will as well”.