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15 Mar 2011

Who is @makiwi and what am I doing?

filed under: journal  :: earthquake  :: japan

How to help Japan

UPDATE, March 26: I've stopped my Twitter flow for the most part - here's why.

UPDATE, March 15: Since Twitter may be experiencing occasional load problems, I am archiving my tweets on this page. It should be polling Twitter to get data in every hour. Warning: There's a lot of stuff in the past few days.

Since a lot of new people have started to follow me on Twitter recently, I thought I'd just explain exactly what I'm doing right now on Twitter, to those who don't know anything about me.

Hi! My name is Makiko, but most of my friends call me Maki. I am a middle aged Japanese woman (no kids), born in Tokyo of Japanese parents; however about 18 years ago, I took U.S. citizenship (I'd been living in the U.S. for years, and felt it was my home now.) Ironically, a couple of years later I got married to a Swiss guy, and moved to Switzerland. I actually split up from him a few years later, moved back to the U.S., then moved back to Switzerland, then got back with same guy a couple years ago, and now we are together again. I'm currently living in Switzerland. We bought an old do-upper house in southern France last year and are planning to move there eventually.

Soo anyway! I am totally bilingual in Japanese and English, because I grew up in Japan, the UK and the US (see details on my regular About page. I also know a bit of French and a tiny bit of German, but am certainly not fluent in either. (Oh yeah, and Züridütsch). As for my profession, I used to be a web designer-developer type. However, for the last couple of years, the two food related blogs I started as a hobby grew and brought enough related opportunities (meaning freelance writing jobs) that I have now transitioned more or less to being a full time writer, mainly writing about food. I published a cookbook recently. Check that out on my food sites, linked on the left side of this page, if you want to.

Since Friday I woke up and found out about the earthquake. I immediately tried to call my mom and my sister, both of whom live in the Tokyo area. I couldn't get through at all. I was, as you might understand, very upset. I then decided to try to track the news via Japanese media, since I knew they'd have much more up to date information than the overseas media. At first, I was just going to do it until I could get in touch with my family. (All my family and friends are fine by the way.)

But then, as I monitored the news on various outlets, I noticed that there was a widening discrepancy between them. There was a tendency towards sensationalism and disinformation (or too-hasty information) from overseas media. So I decided to just start interpreting the news as it happened in Japan, reported in the Japanese media.

My sources

I stick to reliable sources. For TV, I monitor NHK (the national broadcaster, similar to the BBC in the UK) and TBS or Tokyo Broadcasting System. I am grateful that both networks have been providing free streaming video since Friday. I also scan the NHK news site, as well as the sites of major newspapers like Asahi, Yomiuri, Nikkei (Nihon Keizai) and Mainichi. I don't follow the Kyodo News Service's English site - not that I think they're unreliable, but anyone can do that. I keep an eye on various non-Japanese media too. (Switzerland has great access to various news channels.)

I also follow the Twitter accounts of various government officials and agencies, of towns that have been affected, media sources, and other accounts of interest. (Incidentally Japan has been really using Twittter in all kinds of ways during this disaster.)

In the last couple of days I've also started monitoring data of the radioactive material measuring points around Japan. There are both official and unofficial, amateur measuring points.

I also monitor general Japanese tweets, just to gauge general mood and so on. I occasionally translate some jokes being retweeted, stories, and things like that. Just to relieve the constant bad news stream. I also interject some cultural and geographical reference tweets to provide perspective and insight to non-Japanese people.

One more thing I've been doing is chasing down stories that have gotten a lot of play in overseas media or been tweeted around a lot, which haven't appeared at all in Japanese mainstream media. Most if not all of them have turned out to be bogus. No, pandas are not found in nature in Japan.

I am not a journalist

As I said, I'm just a private individual, and food writer. I am just using my bilingual capabilities and cultural knowledge of both Japanese and American culture, as well as to some extent Swiss-European culture.

I don't have any particular political agenda

I am not really pro- or anti-nuclear. I've never actually given it much thought up until now, to be honest. I am vaguely aware of nuclear power plants near where I am in Switzerland, and the shack, er house, we bought in France is about 30 km away from the Triscastin nuclear power plant in Pierrelatte.

All that has gone on at No. 1 and No. 2 Fukushima have scared the shit out of me about nuclear power. Once this is all over I'm going to assess how I feel about it. For now I'm not even thinking about it either way.

One thing is for sure. I am praying and hoping that the Fukushima power plant situation can be stabilized with minimal damage in all ways, that the power shortage problem can be solved somehow, that more survivors will be found...that Japan will overcome this and survive.

Why are you still at it??

I have stayed at it because of the situation at No. 1 and No. 2 Fukushima nuclear power plants, as well as the continuing aftershocks, the growing severity of the situation with survivors in the Tohoku region, and so on. It is also a coping mechanism for me. Whenever I stop for a while, my emotions get the better of me still, even though I do not know any of the people who have been killed or are suffering now. They are still my people, of my mother country. I mourn for the dead, I cry with the survivors.

I do need to get back to (real, money-making) work eventually, so I hope that I can stop soon.

I was already planning to go to Japan on the 28th. I hope Swiss International will be flying to Japan again by then. If they are, you bet I'll be going. My mother needs me.

So there you go. Now you can decide whether I'm worth following or not. I really don't care either way. I cannot wait to get back to the days when my tweets existed mostly of food stuff and whining about my life.

Last but not least, I have an info page on my food blog (it's there because my food site get s about a zillion times more traffic than this neglected thing here) about how to help Japan now. Please do what you can.

Added: Who is "inhouse engineer"?

@pdfguru aka "inhouse engineer" is my husband, Max Wyss. He has a degree in materials engineering (dipl. Ing. ETH, sort of the equivalent of a Masters in engineering in American terms) from the Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich, Switzerland. He is not a nuclear engineer, but his knowledge of the technical matters regarding the nuclear power plant situation is way better than mine. That's why I occasionally quote him or ask for backup info. (By the way, he is called "pdfguru" because he is one of the leading experts on intelligent PDF forms in the world. Just ask Adobe.)

some of my flickr photos