Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The lights go out in Tokyo

Back in the balmy summer heat of August 2006, I found myself driving to work when I noticed the traffic signals were no longer talking to me. In fact they weren't talking to anyone at the time as the power had been cut across a large portion of the city. The cause turned out to be a serious construction barge carrying a rather large crane along the Edogawa (river) had sliced though the main supply lines from the north of the country that were suspended high above the waters. And then the crane promptly sliced through the backup line approximately two meters further down stream from the main lines themselves. 

In a country that almost universally relies on traffic lights rather than roundabouts (I know of a sum total of one), entertaining the concept on crossing the road took on a whole new risk level. In fact in Japan, where you give way to the left at a crossing, the introduction will take a lot of time and would need to be exercised with extreme caution, as seen when a car pulled out in front of me on said circular on the basis he had right of way being on my left. Wombat.

And so the lights are out again today in over half a million homes. Second time in a decade. On this occasion due to an unhappy thirty five year power cable buried to the north of Tokyo. Earth shattering ground tremors aside, Tokyo is built to withstand massive shocks using multiple back-up facilities (except for a back up generator in Shinjuku powering the Yamanote Line, housed in the same building as the main generator which unfortunately caught fire and reduced both to smouldering ash). But that day in 2006 we all slowed down and inched out way to respective destinations. Despite 250,000 being affected, no one was reported to have been injured. There was no drama; people simply lit the way and just got on with the job.

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