I just got back to Japan yesterday evening. I lugged my bags into my ride, and napped on the way home. I got my things into my apartment and got a good night’s rest.
This morning, I woke up, unpacked some things and took a nice, hot shower and got dressed. I was a nice day outside, and I figured I’d make a quick run to AEON to take my souvenirs to my former coworkers. I hopped on my bike, and when I got to Tsukuba MOG around 2:40pm (the shopping mall in my area) I parked and walked to the elevator. When I pressed the button, nothing happened. I pressed it again…nothing. I didn’t see the light showing that the elevator was descending. I thought it was weird, but I kept pressing the button anyway.
I felt a very subtle shaking and when I turned around and saw the windows of some of the shops (on the bottom level of the mall) shaking. Tremors happen in Japan, so I didn’t think it was anything out of the ordinary. The rumbling got stronger, prompting me to slowly move away from the elevator. As the shaking became rumbling & roaring. I moved quickly (i.e.- ran) to the street., where large a large crowd of people was starting to gather. People were leaving the mall in droves. It was a severe earthquake!
Often when there are small tremors, you can’t physically see the buildings moving but you can feel it if you’re inside. This time it was totally different. I could see everything shaking. It was so unreal to me that the street and sidewalk were moving, too. I actually had to work to keep my balance, it was unreal and downright frightening.
I stood on the street with everyone else, in shock. I scanned some of the shops in the mall, and things were just getting tossed around. The earthquake was completely indiscriminate: wine bottles, shelves, tables, books, vases, clothing, you name it…the earthquake was tossing it. The same place that I had my farewell party just weeks ago, Portofino, was trashed.
Like I mentioned in the Earthquake Safety Article, during earthquakes I think everyone has that “What do I do if this earthquake gets out of hand?” moment. When it’s really happening, though, it can be hard to get your bearing. I must say that I am impressed with how quickly the mall staff evacuated the mall and guided people to safety. These guys even had on white hard hats. In my brain I was thinking “Where did you get the white hard hat from?” “Do you just have a random hard hat lying on your desk, just in case?” But in all seriousness, it was well organized and people didn’t panic.
I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep last night because I counted at least five aftershocks, and had the news running, just in case I needed to hear something important.
I am hearing so many things that it’s hard to make sense of it all. I hear that an earthquake measuring 8.9 struck the Pacific off of the northeast coast of Japan (in the Tohoku region) this resulted in a tsunami with waves as high as 10 meters, which caused some major damage to coastal cities in the area. This was officially the largest earthquake in Japan’s recorded history, so seeing the extent of the damage on TV was shocking:
It was really hard to reach people after the earthquake happened. By and large, cell phone service was rendered useless (except for Karl’s iPhone for some reason), there were fires & floods in some areas (luckily not mine), tap water being shut off in some homes, among other things; and the aftershocks continue to happen. I hope everything will be fine now, though.
I am glad I’m okay, but I know there are friends and students who can’t reach family members, people who lost their lives, their homes, and their peace of mind. I think I’m going to don something raggedy and go help with some clean up.
If you’re in Japan, and were hit by the earthquake, please take care. Drinking water is really important. If there are any other big ones, going to a local park, middle school/high school, high school, or community center are good places to seek refuge.
Take care of yourselves out there,
P.S.-Where were you when the earthquake hit? If you need to vent, to talk, whatever, ask questions, please feel free to use the comments section to vent.
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