A Travellerspoint blog

The Earthquake/Tsunami of 2011

My experience of the Quake from my facebook blog...

semi-overcast 10 °C

Earthquakes and Tsunami's...well...a Tsunami is not a Surfers dream. Its a.....what am i doing writing a brief Intro about Earthquakes and Tsunami's for?! Everyone knows what they are! One of Mother Natures most devastating weapons! (maybe emotions is better).

Its been 3 days since the Earthquake and Tsunami took Japan by mega shock and destroyed a great deal. Im still feeling aftershocks..some real some in my head. There could be another Quake who knows. I've been under my bed, wearing my shoes and curled in the foetal position with a packet of biscuits for the last 3days quivering!....thats not true.....i've not, how would that help? If i had known before i came to Japan that i'd be writing a blog about an Earthquake, would i have come....what kind of questions am i asking myself!? of course i couldnt have known that! People can't live life in constant fear of the "what if". If we did we'd never get anything done. We just have to get on with it. Keep going forward doing what we do and getting things done, taking on whatever comes our way. Disasters from minor to major can happen at anytime, we can do very little to be completely prepared for them, its just something that we all have to deal with.

Was the phrase "No news is good news" coined way back when amidst tradgic events it was extremely difficult to get news of any sort so the phrase was used in hope?...i dont know im just speculating. This is because despite being connected to sources of information all the news (as helpful as it may be) just worries people further, however we must be kept up to date whatever the situation. Its probably cheeky of me to have said this as its easy for me to say when i've not been directly affected by this natural disaster.

Japan sits right in the area of some major fault lines (cracks in the Earths surface resulting from the action of tectonic forces...even though i studied geography at University i won't bore/educate you with the geology of it all......what your saying i dont remember it all?...yeeeaaa probably true) which isn't good in terms of being prone to disasters, so for Japan a relatively small country, extremely densely populated and extremely vulnerable to events like this its a bad combination of factors.

I'll get straight to my account of Friday march 11th.

It was a standard friday for me in Tama Centre a suburban-ish area inbetween Tokyo and Yokohama. I was teaching (or guiding) a group of older women to English Stardom. It was at 2:50pm that one of the women started clutching the table and began to utter words of fear (in japanese of course, we hadn't covered fear in English yet). I thought this was nothing as a few time s before since i've been living in Japan i've felt these such tiny shakes that come to nothing. However this one went from a tiny shake and gradually got stronger and more violent. Should i have taught the phrase "Holy fucking shit"?!. We stood up and went to the reception area, where the receptionist was also starting to panic. This school is in a shopping centre on the 3rd floor, so we could open the door and see other staff and shoppers gathering in distress. When the Quake was in the middle of shaking the whole building wildly (much like a 5year old shaking their toys like a giant) i felt like these women were looking at me with a "what should we do" like expression. "Fucked if it know" i was thinking! Strangely i had a slight grin on my face while this was happening, maybe it was a mechanism to keep myself calm. I really hadn't a clue what to do, just wait til it was over i kept thinking. The building was shaking but i didn't see anything smash or break, only slight crumbles of the shitty board ceiling fall. and a few things fall off desks. Two things went through my head as it was happening. I was thinking if it all goes to shit im going to have great difficultly communicating and helping people. The receptionist didn't have a very good level of English at all and the old women were the lowest level i teach. Tama Centre isn't an area with many foriegners either and my level of Japanese although i try wasn't good enough to really communicate to a great degree especially in an emergency like this! The other thing i was thinking was do i have an extra contact lense case and glasses in my bag. I was thinking this because i feel my main weakness/disability in an emergency would be my eyesight. I'm -4.75 (short-sighted) which granted isn't a life altering disability compared to others but without my contacts or glasses i feel pretty disadvantaged. Luckily i did, and luckily i didnt need them.

After the Quake died down, it was all very eery people didnt know if they should return to working or not. The receptionist attempted to find information out via the internet on her phone. I tried to call my girfriend who was at the time working in Tokyo, however my phone didn't seem to work. I couldn't send texts or make calls. I thought it might be because my phones a total piece of shit, pre-paid sorry excuse for a phone at all! but nobody's phones seemed to work and soon it was clear that there was a reason for not phasing out pay phones, they finally were being used (much like a kid neglecting his toys to play Xbox only to see that break thus crawling back to his toys). The Queue for pay phones lengthened and lengthened. I hope it was prioritized for people calling people up north. Shortly after we found out where the Earthquake originated. We "only" felt the ripple effect of the Quake as it spread out from the epicentre. School wasn't cancelled (yet) but i presumed my next two classes of kids would most likely not turn up as the train lines would probably be down. However in the next two classes 1 kid turned up from each, which was quite an akward and still a bit shakey 1 to 1 lesson. In the first class it was a little girl and half way through the class an aftershock vibrated through the building and this little girl was under the table in the blink of an eye! Japan has always said its the most prepared country for an Earthquake (not one of this magnitude though) and Japanese children (and anyone i suppose) are well trained in the procedures of such an event, eg. "get the fuck under the table!".

Later that day about 7pm (i usually work til 9 on weekdays) i got word that all schools had been cancelled for the rest of the day and the weekend. So now i was going to attempt to get "home" back to my apartment in Japan that is....although i would have much rather been home in Scotland!. I walked out of the building and down the path to the train station. Already i could see a mile long queue outside (like they were queueing for....ehhh...who do the Japanese go crazy for?....Lady Gaga?...i dunno) and this had me thinking its gonna be a long night ahead. I came to find out the queue was for the taxi's and not for the train as the train's had stopped running completely. Earlier that day i was thinking its a beautiful day and spring is here so i only wore a hoodie and a scarf. Of course that evening i'd wished i had more clothes. I proceeded to join the queue (wishing i had a queue skip) and remembered i also forgot to bring my mp3 player DAMN. A very friendly young Japanese guy called called Toshi asked me if i needed any help while i was waiting. He was very friendly and spoke very good English. It turned out he lives in Chiba (east of Tokyo quite far) and he was stranded in Tama Centre. He came back to the line every so often, we chatted and he kept me up to date on the situation regarding transport. I ended up waiting for 4 1/2 hours in the cold for a taxi (which i knew would be pricey). While i waited i tried to contact others and also spoke to my mum briefly to tell her im ok. As i waited my phone started ringing, i picked it out my pocket and the number read "+61" which is an Australian code. I answered and could barely hear from the noise on the other line. It turned out it was my cousin who lives in Australia. It was surprising because we haven't spoken in a long time and we don't keep in touch but that made it all the more appreciated that he'd called! I didn't get any other calls from anyone outside Japan, but thats ok i wasn't expecting any, the facebook messages were good enough (which i couldn't read on my mobile because it doesn't have internet access). At the time i didn't realise how fast the incident had become global!

I have bad circulation in my hands (i sound like an OAP) [my mum also has bad circulation but im not blaming her]) and hanging around in the cold for such a long time waiting turned my hands corpse like. I was cold and shivering, but there was a girl ahead of me that looked like she was wearing less and had very high heels on, didn't seem to be complaining so i thought id just grin and bear it. On top of all this, only 1 taxi every 15-20minutes was turning up sometimes just taking a single person! Passing cars drove past this exceeding long queue in the frezing cold and just stared. You'd think/hope that in this situation drivers would do the decent thing and ask people where they were going and offer to give a lift but NO! Ridiculous! Not the done thing in Japan even in this scenario!...

Just as i got fairly near the front of the taxi queue, a station worker came and announced that the Odakyu train line was now up and running. I bolted it to the platform and managed to get home by about 1:30am. It was great to get back, get some food and most importantly get some warmth.

I just think i should say now the reality of it is i was more inconvenienced that friday. I was not directly affected and im in no position to be complaining or claiming i was in some kind of devastating turmoil or fight for my life because this was DEFINETELY NOT the case.

When i got home i watcrf the News on TV and came to understand the extent of the Earthquake and subsequent Tsunami's unbelievable destruction! It was surreal, hard to believe.

People in the Tokyo area have been very lucky. If the epicentre was nearer Tokyo i dread to think what the aftermath would have been like with such an Earthquake clocking in at 9.0 on the richter scale!

I heard a story of a 60 year old man found floating on a piece of roof and rescued. He'd been floating for 2days and his wife had been swept away. Its impossibly to grasp how fucking terrible that man's situation is and how his life as he knows it has been ripped apart before his eyes. I've seen terrible disasters on the news in my life both natural; 2004 Tsunami and unnatural; World Trade Centres 2001, but it feels a lot different actually being in the country where a disaster strikes. I've been able to keep track of news through BBC live streaming, and once on Japanese TV when they had it in English, but its difficult to really get the exact information needed, it keeps changing and i hear mixed things. Theres Nuclear reactors in Fukushima which are causing a problem and could cause an even bigger problem (radiation) but the news on that situation keeps changing and is unclear.

Its Monday (14th) afternoon now as i type this. Tokyo's train lines have been interrupted and routine life is definetely not normal. In Tokyo and the surrounding area today and possibly into the indefinite future there will be scheduled power outages to save as much electricity as possible. Yesterday Supermarkets were crowded as people were cleaning them out of food and water for supplies, shelves were empty it was like the apocalypse. It was an unbelievable sight! At least the developed world has access to these foods.

I don't have to work until Thursday but for me and many others thats not exactly a priority right now. Some people have started heading south, mainly to stay clear of radiation that could spread through the atmosphere. Some people have left and some people are considering leaving the country, at the same time as many other countries send humanitarian support to Japan.

Yesterday i tried to find out if i could give blood at a donation centre as many people will be needing blood in the aftermath. To my frustration i found out that due to BSE disease (mad cow) that affected the UK a long time ago, British people and anyone in the UK during that time cannot donate. I think this is ridiculous as i've donated blood a fair number of times when i lived back home.

I don't know what im going to do. Can people find solace in the fact that something this devastating is out of their control if it happens again?! I'll continue to use BBC and Twitter for any other useful information, and i'll weight up my options as time unfolds.

To everyone in the affected area, I truely can't understand what your must be going through as i have food, shelter and im safe. To everyone else in Japan, stay safe! 気をつけて. To everyone else Worldwide also stay safe but also think of what you have....this certainly makes you think anything can be torn apart in an instant...

This is not something i'll look back on and think i remember when i was involved in the Earthquake/Tsunami (they come hand in hand) of 2011 because as i said I have not been directly affected. IM OK! When i see the footage and pictures everyone else around the World is witnessing i just thank my lucky stars (where did that expression come from?) i'm not further north otherwise i for sure wouldn't be typing this...

Posted by RMS8 06:04 Archived in Japan Tagged japan tsunami event danger earthquake fukushima

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

This blog requires you to be a logged in member of Travellerspoint to place comments.