Heavy snowfall in Shiga

Lake Yogo with deep snow.

Shiga and the Japan Sea Coast (especially Niigata Prefecture) got a heavy dump of snow during Feb. 2 and 3, 2012. Nagahama and Imazu (Takashima) in northern Shiga have gotten over 70 cm of snow. On Feb. 3, some 160 troops from the Ground Self-Defense Forces were dispatched to Imazu to help remove snow. The last time they dispatched military personnel for snow removal was 31 years ago in Jan. 1981.

On the morning of Feb. 3, people in central Nagahama, such as in Kurokabe Square, were busy shoveling snow. Maibara and Hikone also got a good amount of snow. Some 35 kindergartens and elementary and junior high schools in Nagahama and Maibara canceled classes on Feb. 3 due to hazardous roads. Meanwhile, 105 schools either delayed the start of classes or canceled afternoon classes.

Snowy and icy roads are also causing car accidents. During Feb. 2-3, about 300 accidents occurred mainly due to road slippage. Twenty-two people were injured. Higashi-Omi, Hikone, and Omi-Hachiman saw the most car accidents with 76, 63, and 50 accidents respectively.

People are also getting injured while shoveling snow off their rooftops or falling into roadside gutters hidden by the snow. Some agricultural greenhouses also collapsed under the snow, even as south as Kora town.

The snowfall’s peak is passing, but shinkansen trains are being delayed between Nagoya and Kyoto on Feb. 4.

Take extra precautions when traveling to or in Shiga. Be very careful when walking on icy surfaces. Beware of cars that cannot stop due to road slippage. And don’t forget about the Hong Kong flu that’s going around. A very high number of cases have been reported in neighboring Gifu, so take precautions especially for the kids and elderly. Stay safe this winter.

Shiga’s response to Tohoku earthquake/tsunami in March

This is a summary of Shiga’s response to the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami which I will continue to update.

The local Shiga TV news broadcast by NHK Otsu on March 31, 2011 reported the following:

– The JA Group farmer’s cooperative donated 10 tons of Omi-mai rice grown in Shiga. Some 2,000 5-kilogram bags of rice were packed onto a truck bound for Fukushima.

The local Shiga TV news broadcast by NHK Otsu on March 25, 2011 reported the following:

– Otsu-based ramen noodle restaurant chain called Rairaitei (来来亭) donated 100 million yen to the Japan Red Cross’ Shiga Chapter. Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko accepted the donation from the president of Rairaitei on behalf of the Shiga Chapter.

– Two weeks after the Tohoku disaster, about 200 people (57 families) have evacuated to Shiga from the stricken areas in Tohoku. They are staying at public housing offered rent-free for six months.

The local Shiga TV news broadcast by NHK Otsu on March 24, 2011 reported the following:

– Nagahama and Takashima have started accepting donations for food, water, and other provisions. Both cities will accept donations for about a week.

– Bottled water has sold out in Shiga. Supermarkets have empty racks where bottled water were sold. Even the smaller 500 ml bottles of water are gone. Sports drinks, tea, and other beverages are still available. Apparently, people are hoarding, buying water for friends/relatives in Tokyo area where tap water was reported to have higher levels of radiation, or buying for Tohoku disaster victims.

The local Shiga TV news broadcast by NHK Otsu on March 23, 2011 reported the following:

– Otsu and a few other local governments in Shiga have begun accepting donations of food and relief goods from the public. Canned food, bottled water, rice, disposable diapers, batteries, etc., are being accepted at specified locations. The collected goods will be trucked to the affected areas by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Forces stationed in Otsu. Otsu will accept such donations until March 31. Ritto, Yasu, Moriyama, Omi-Hachiman, and Koka are also accepting donations of relief goods. Best to call your city hall to check what and where you can donate.

– Students from Tohoku attending a major university in Shiga Prefecture can have their tuition fully or partially waived if their parents or guardian suffered devastating losses, major injury, or death in the earthquake or tsunami. They can contact their university for more info.

The local Shiga TV news broadcast by NHK Otsu on March 22, 2011 reported the following:

– Nippon Electric Glass Company (日本電気硝子), based in Otsu, has donated 100 million yen to the Japan Red Cross as aid for the Tohoku disaster victims. The company makes glass panels for LCD televisions and cell phone displays. The donation was given to the Shiga Chapter of the Japan Red Cross. Shiga Governor Kada Yukiko happens to be the head of the Shiga Chapter and she received the donation personally on behalf of the Japan Red Cross. The Shiga Chapter has already received over 266 million yen in donations as of March 22, 2011.

– A municipal medical center in Omi-Hachiman called Omi-Hachiman Sogo Iryo Center (近江八幡市立総合医療センター) has started accepting dialysis patients from the stricken areas in Tohoku. It can accept up to ten out-patients who need artificial dialysis three times a week. Out-patients will be put up in a business hotel near the medical center and a free shuttle bus will be provided. Getting dialysis treatments is hard in the Tohoku area with many hospitals either inoperative or without power.

The local Shiga TV news broadcast by NHK Otsu on March 18, 2011 reported the following:

– Yanmar, a company founded in Shiga that makes industrial machinery, is sending 30 portable power generators to Iwate Prefecture. The truck carrying the generators left Nagahama.

– The Go and Azai Sisters Expo being held in Nagahama is continuing to accept donations for the Tohoku disaster victims. On March 19 (Sat.), a few mascot characters will be on hand to collect donations from expo visitors.

– Also beware of scammers seeking “donations.” They are going door-to-door disguised as local government workers or NPO workers or sending faxes urging people to donate. Do not give money to these scammers. They are operating all over Japan.

The local Shiga TV news broadcast by NHK Otsu on March 15, 2011 reported the following:

– Shiga Prefecture is making available 34 public housing apartment units free of rent to people affected by the Tohoku quake/tsunami. It has started accepting applications (first-come, first-served) for these units in Otsu, Yasu, Takashima, Higashi-Omi, and Nagahama. Rental period is 6 months, but renewable. Call this number in Japanese for more info: 077-528-4234 ( 県土木交通部住宅課)

– In addition, many cities and towns in Shiga are making a total of 78 apartment units available to disaster victims for rent. Contact the city/town hall for more info.

The local Shiga TV news broadcast by NHK Otsu on March 14, 2011 reported the following:

– People wanting to travel to the affected areas in Tohoku (northeastern Japan) to do volunteer work are being asked to refrain from trying to go there for the time being. Public transportation is still nil and the danger of aftershocks and the unstable nuclear power reactor still exist. We first have to allow the Self-Defense Forces troops and other professionals continue with search and rescue operations, not to mention more grisly work.

– Also, donations of provisions from the public is not being accepted right now because they still cannot be transported to the affected area en masse. Organizations accepting such donations will have to store them somewhere until they can be transported to the Tohoku area.

– Right now, it is best to give monetary donations at reputable collectors such as your local city/town hall and Heiwado stores. NHK offices and the Red Cross are also accepting donations.

– The Shiga Prefectural Government is coordinating with Kyoto to send personnel and provisions to mainly Fukushima Prefecture. They already have over 250 people from Shiga and Kyoto’s fire departments, police departments, and medical institutions on site.

– Shiga Prefecture and its cities and towns are sending emergency provisions equivalent to one-fourth of the inventory Shiga has stored for emergencies. This afternoon, they packed 6,700 blankets and 38,000 servings of biscuits in trucks now heading for Namie Town Hall (浪江町役場) in Fukushima Prefecture. In addition, six Shiga prefectural staff rode in the trucks and will gather information and help comfort victims.

– A total of 229 students attending universities in Shiga who are from the Tohoku area and who went back home for the spring vacation cannot be contacted. Officials at Ritsumeikan, Ryukoku, and Shiga University are working to confirm their students’ safety. Of course, the problem is, cell phones are out of commission or difficult to get through in the Tohoku region now.

Praying for all in Tohoku.

Earthquake hotline for foreigners

An NPO in Otsu called National Managerial Council for Multicultural Information & Assistance (Tabunka Kyosei Manager Zenkoku Kyogikai 多文化共生マネージャー全国協議会) has set up a telephone hotline for foreigners in Japan wanting information about the Tohoku earthquake/tsunami, victims, etc. The NPO has staff speaking most major languages including English, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, and Tagalog.

The hotline telephone numbers are as follows:

English: 080-3503-9306

Chinese: 080-3691-3641

Portuguese: 080-3486-2768

Spanish: 080-3454-7764

Operators will answer from 9 am to 8 pm every day. Hotlines for other languages will be added later.

Also see their multi-lingual Web site: http://eqinfojp.net/

Shiga unaffected by earthquake

Northern Japan got hit with a major earthquake on March 11, 2011. We felt it in Tokyo as well, and it was the worse earthquake I ever experienced. I was at home and rushed out as soon as it became clear it was a big one. My books, flat-panel TV, stereo speakers, etc., toppled over. Fortunately, no damage except for a few scratches on the TV. I’m alive and well.

The earthquake was also felt in Shiga Prefecture, but at a much lower intensity (magnitude 3 compared to magnitude 5 in Tokyo). It was just a little jiggle and no more in Shiga. No damage nor injuries reported in Shiga.

Your friends or family in Shiga are safe if they were here on the day of the quake.

I’m now in Shiga after getting tired of all the aftershocks in Tokyo. With scheduled power outages (rolling blackouts), canceled or stopped train lines, more aftershocks, and the ongoing nuclear power plant crisis, Tokyo is an unnerving place to be right now.

Philbert Ono

H1N1 swine flu hotline and vaccinations in Shiga

For foreigners in Shiga, Shiga Prefecture has opened a telephone consultation hotline for the H1N1 swine flu .

The phone No. is:

077-522-4776

You can speak in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Tagalog, or Chinese.

Consultation hours are 8:30 am to 5:15 pm.

Meanwhile, flu vaccinations started in Shiga on Nov. 2 for pregnant women and people with vulnerable heath conditions. Shiga currently has the vaccine for 7,000 people. They are starting with hospital patients. Pregnant women who are outpatients will be vaccinated from mid-Nov.

Children age 1 to 3rd grade will be vaccinated from mid-Dec., and children from 4th grade up to high schoolers and the elderly will be vaccinated from January.

Vaccinations are by appointment only. The cost is a few thousand yen.

See Shiga’s flu updates in English here:
http://www.pref.shiga.jp/multilingual/infuluenza/english/index.html

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