JIN-381 -- 'Tokyo the Powerful' barges her way into world

The J@pan Inc. Newsletter
Commentary on the Week's Business, Technology and Cultural News
SUBSCRIBERS: 30,744 as of August 23, 2006
Issue No. 381
Friday August 23, 2006 TOKYO
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@@ VIEWPOINT: 'Tokyo the Powerful' barges her way into world

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Tokyo the powerful barges her way into world headlines

My poor, suffering husband had one of his worst nightmares
come true last Monday. Up since 5.30am to send off our
Australian friends after a weekend of what could best be
described as paying homage to Bacchus, he was a very sorry
sight indeed. As he feebly made his way to the train
station, I can only imagine his despair when he arrived,
in the already blistering heat, to find that there were no
trains to be had. I have been trying to picture what shade
of green his face turned when he realised he would be stuck
there for some time, and what whiter shade of pale he then
turned as the commuters began to bottleneck. Tokyo, an
international city, world famous for its high tech and
flashing lights, was cut off from all things electric.

Headlines across the globe splashed out the Asian giant's
"It happens in Tokyo too: Power cut cripples city"
(India Times),
or "Thousands trapped by Tokyo power cut" (Guardian, UK),
and "Tokyo darkened by power failure" (CNN).
According to most reports, at around 7.40am, a barge
carrying a construction crane rammed into power lines
while cruising down the Kyu Edogawa River, which runs
between Urayasu in Chiba Prefecture and Edogawa in Tokyo.

They don't call them barges for nothing.

Chat rooms offered a much less formal take on things.
On Fark.com, 'ten-of-spades' said: "I was in Tokyo
Disneyland (actually, waiting 90 minutes for it to open)
and there were 9 news helicopters circling over Tokyo".
He tried to take a picture of all 9, but could only get
his readers a picture of 6 little black spots in the sky
before the queue started to move. He has dutifully marked
them out in bright yellow numbers, just in case you miss
them. Due to the power shortages, Tokyo Disneyland and
Tokyo Sea in Chiba Prefecture were forced to delay the
opening of their gates for around one hour.

"I live on the other side of the earth from Tokyo," wrote
'itazurakko', "but several of my neighbors told me about
it, as if it is something I desperately need to keep up on.
My main thought was "huh, maybe that's why the newspaper
didn't load just now."

'Passionate Tentacles' quoted a news article: "As the city
got back to normal, men were given a special dispensation
to travel in 'women-only' metro carriages to ease

'Lundman' contradicted the main news outlets reports
that Shibuya had been unaffected by the outage:
"Shibuya was dark too, even the big screen!"

And from 'Aceofhearts': "Is it cool or sad that I live in
Tokyo but didn't know about this until I read it on fark
12 hours after it happened?" I'm just leaving that one

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According to the spate of news reports, around 1.39 million
homes were left without power in three prefectures, there
were 58 cases of people stuck in elevators, ATMs across the
city failed and over 400 traffic lights went dead. One taxi
driver told Japan's Mainichi paper: "There were fewer cars
because of summer vacation. It's a miracle there were no
traffic accidents."

One can only imagine the chaos that could have ensued if it
were not the summer holiday season in Japan. My husband
later laughed at the irony of the fact that, on one of the
quietest Monday mornings on the Tokyo commuting calendar,
the outage had to happen on the only morning he was
-- eh hem -- 'under the weather.' Instead of a nice, cool
seat on a spacious train, he instead found himself among
the throngs of those the summer exodus left behind. Around
120,000 people were reportedly affected by the train

Train services resumed by around 8.50am, which is pretty
impressive by anyone's standards. In my native Sydney, I
can guarantee such a power failure would see us without
trains for around a week and a half. We hardly have a
working train system when there is power. It's easy to
forget how dependent we are on energy, and those that
toil away at the services to get them back up and running
again in such a short time. Tokyo is known for its
white-gloved efficiency, but to see it pull all the stops
out to get a city of such massive size back on the power
grid really deserves a round of applause.

Which brings us to our poor barge driver. One can only
imagine what a week that man has had. One minute you're
cruising down the river with a big crane, the next you've
heard something snap. The rest of the morning is spent
learning about how many gadzillion homes don't have power,
how many people are stuck in elevators and how many people
can't get to work on the trains. It would the equivalent
of taking one upper cut after another, while a lead ball
sinks heavier and heavier into your stomach. There have
been reports of an upcoming inquiry over the incident and
the damage it caused, to which I say, if they do punish the
bargie, go easy. One can assume he's had a rough enough
time already.

For my part, this intrepid reporter is happy to write that
I had no idea a power cut had even taken place until I
read it in the news at around lunchtime. By the time I
switched on my computer to get my daily (and usually
morning) headlines, Tokyo had fully recovered her graces
and my life of technology dependence went on uninterrupted.
There's something to be said for those days when you are
just better off staying in bed. I'm sure that's what the
barge driver wished he had done.

-- Willhemina Wahlin
== Entrepreneur Association of Tokyo - September 12th ==

Speaker: Alex Serge Vieux, Publisher of Red Herring
and CEO of Red Herring Inc.
Presentation Title: "Building great companies in the face
of adversity"

Mr. Vieux has kindly offered to fly out from California to
speak at EA-Tokyo's September seminar. He will be drawing
on his extensive expertise as a high-tech journalist,
entrepreneur, professor, and advisor to the French
government. Mr. Vieux is currently responsible for steering
the growth of the organization and guiding the publication's

Date/Time: September 12th 7:00 pm
Location: City Club of Tokyo - Maple Room
(Canadian Embassy Complex)
Language: English
Website: http://www.ea-tokyo.com
Email: info@ea-tokyo.com
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Speaker: Andrew Perons, Manager, Risk & Compliance,
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Details: Complete event details at http://www.icajapan.jp/
(RSVP Required)

Date: Thursday, Sept 21, 2006
Time: 6:30 Doors open, buffet dinner included
Cost: 3,000 yen (members), 5,500 yen (non-members),

Open to all - Location is Foreign Correspondents' Club


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