Real name: Matt Alt
Twitter name: @matt_ALT
Location: Kichijoji, Tokyo
Occupation: Together with my wife, I run a company called AltJapan. It's what is known as a localization company. We produce the English versions of Japanese video games and other forms of entertainment. We also write books and field-produce the occasional television segment.
Where were you at the time of the quake?
At home near Kichijoji, working. We had quite a shake. We couldn't even stand up at the peak of it. About halfway through the tremors, my wife and I just looked at each other and said, ‘This is the big one.’
At what point did you think to get on Twitter?
I've been twittering for well over a year now, but given the incredibly fluid situation, it just seemed to be the best way to check up on friends and spread word of what we were seeing and hearing.
How has daily life been in Tokyo since then? Have you seen anything striking?
We have stayed mainly in and around Kichijoji. One of the more striking things I saw in the days after the quake were salarymen sitting on benches in Inokashira Park in the mornings, either turned away from their offices or unable to make it in because of the incredible lines to board the trains. Normally you never see guys in suits sitting around gazing over the pond on a weekday morning. Something about that unusual but rather mundane image really stuck with me.
What sources have you found indispensable in order to keep your Twitter followers informed?
I rely heavily on NHK, on journalist friends who talk to me off the record, and – as a back-up – data feeds from various radiation monitoring posts around the city. And other twitterers, of course. I’ve found the majority of Western mainstream media to really be behind the curve on covering the situation.
Honestly now, had you heard of a sievert before Saturday?
Never. It's amazing how fast you learn when your own health is on the line.
At the time of writing, what's your position concerning the evacuation of the capital?
I'm planning to stay. Not out of bravado, but based on what I'm hearing from radiation-knowledgeable sources and seeing on the online geiger counters. You'll note that even the embassies are saying that there's no real risk more than 50 miles out. We're at 150. This is a terrible, terrible human and environmental tragedy, but the actual effect on Tokyo is rather minimal. The real story is in Fukushima itself, and in the devastated areas further north.
Are there any charities or NPOs you're particularly advising?
Not yet. It is human nature to want to rush and help, and I know a lot of Japanese are touched by the concern. But this isn't a third-world country, and basic supplies/facilities are in place. The real need for help is going to come with the rebuilding efforts.
All being well, what are you looking forward to most in Tokyo's near future?
Having a day that doesn't begin by checking the geiger counters!
6 Tokyo Tweeters who kept the city informed
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