Real-time Report from Tokyo During the March 11th Earthquake
A massive earthquake of a 8.8 magnitude (the biggest ever since Japan started recordings 140 years ago) occurred in the Pacific Ocean at about 160 km from North-eastern Japan at 12:46pm on March 11 (JST). Significant damages occurred and an up to 10 m tsunami hit the coastal areas. The death count keeps rising as the water clears. Below are the post I gave at the time.
Friday 11th March 2011 – 14h45 (JST): Wow, I was sitting at my desk when a violent earthquake just occurred. It is estimated at 7.6 magnitude. Here in Yokohama, it was ascribed a 5+. The kids are very calm and we are waiting for subsequent tremors.
Friday, March 11, 2011 – 18h34 (JST): I am fine, it shook quite a bit but everything is OK. I am stuck at work and there is no access to Facebook. My phone does not work either. I am going to sit that one out at school in Yokohama until the trains start again. Taxis are useless because of the traffic jams. I’ll return to Tokyo whenever I can.
Friday, March 11, 2011 – 20h02 (JST): We are still waiting for parents to collect their kids. Most kids got home safely and we are waiting in the library. The moral is good even though many families have no electricity tonight. We are lucky at school as the power and Internet is on. Many staff members offered me to stay with tonight as it seems unlikely that I can make it home. All train lines are stopped until tomorrow and the traffic is horrendous.
Waiting after the earthquake
Friday, March 11, 2011 – 01h56 (JST): The Tokyu Toyoko line started again later in the evening and I managed to get home by 1 am. All kids and staff at school got home or found a shelter for the night. The crowd at Shibuya station waiting to get a train back to suburbia areas was enormous, even given Japan’s standards.
Saturday, March 12, 2011: Today, the trains are running more or less regularly. People went back to work and we are all keeping an eye on the nuclear power plants situation.
Saturday, March 12, 2011 – 21 h 45 (JST): I was quite unsettled this afternoon, I did not know what to do and after wandering around for a while, my steps naturally led me to the Aikikai. The atmosphere was very heavy in the changing room. Despite this charged atmosphere, it made me really feel better to practice a bit. People who attended also seemed to be glad to be back on the tatami.
Günter Zorn and his wife Elke were there and we talked about the events of day before. It made me a lot of good to be able to put into words what was happening and to be able to hear their feelings since they have been living in Japan for so many years. This discussion was a very special moment for me, I felt less isolated.
Sugawara Sensei was at his post and he ensured class as usual. His steadfast presence and solid Aikido played like a real anchor for us who had come to practice.
It was during the break of 18 h 30 that ChewBoon Tan told us that there had been an explosion at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima. We had no other information on the severity of the burst. We did not know if we were to expect an imminent nuclear holocaust, if we had to go home, take refuge somewhere, or just keep practicing. Sugawara Sensei was back at 19 h 00 and we just kept practicing.
In retrospect, I think that I was lucky that this news came while I was at the Hombu Dojo, with these people who are the closest thing to a family for me in Japan. In all my articles I always insist on the fact that for me, the Aikikai is a great family, certainly a little dysfunctional, but a family nonetheless. In extreme cases like this, I really think my feeling is not at all exaggerated.
Sunday, March 13, 2011 – 22 h 19 (JST): Bad news from the plant in Fukushima continue to arrive and we received a serious warning advising that there was a 70% chance that a replica of a magnitude equivalent to that of the earthquake last Friday would occur within 5 days. Megumi and I decided to go to Osaka for an indefinite period. We will fly tomorrow morning from Haneda Airport. Narita Airport is no longer easily accessible and many flights have been canceled. We are preparing our suitcase in a hurry, hoping that everything will be calm tonight.
Monday, March 14, 2011 – 06 h 26 (JST): We left Tokyo this morning by taxi. The streets are deserted, people stayed at home today. We expect a massive earthquake to hit at any time and the idea of waiting on the reclaimed land in Haneda is quite worrying but this is the only solution. The post-apocalyptic landscape due to this lack of human activity reminds me of the Danny Boyle film 28 Days Later…
Empty streets in Shibuya
Monday, March 14, 2011 – 09 h 04 (JST): We’re on the plane. We feel a bit guilty to be leaving but since we are both on holiday, we do not see much point in staying in Tokyo, especially in case of a panic starting, we want to stay away from the megalopolis. We will return when things are a bit more stable. Recorded atmospheric radioactivity in Tokyo this morning was significantly higher than normal…
Tuesday, March 15, 2011 – 20 h 14 (JST): We’re in a hotel in Osaka. The mood is not great but we feel that a lot of pressure has lifted off our shoulders. However, we spend most of our time in the hotel room, just sitting and watching the news. Hopefully tomorrow we will do a bit of tourism which will hopefully change our mood. I am getting a few emails from friends who are also down in Kansai, we give each other’s news but still we keep little isolated and prostrated.
Meeting some colleagues at a Fugu restaurant in Osaka
Thursday, March 17, 2011 – 10h20 (JST): We have just booked two tickets on Air France to return to France tomorrow. The news are not getting better seismically and at Fukushima and we are wasting a lot of money in Osaka. Besides, we really need a break; this constant tension is really wearing us out.
Friday, March 18, 2011 – 09 h35 (JST): While on the train to Kansai airport, we have made the decision not to take the plane back to France. Megumi could not leave knowing that her family is still in Tokyo. On my side, I could not leave her alone so we canceled our tickets by phone. We took the Shinkansen from Kansai international airport to Tokyo. The weather is getting threatening and rain makes potential radioactive exposure more important. I have to do this for her but I really feel like I am on a journey bringing me back to hell…
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