It’s been more than 48 hours since the big earthquake. As of this moment, the magnitude has been revised to 9.0, there are still tsunami warnings, still a possibility of an aftershock of up to magnitude 8.0, a likely partial meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, more than 1000 dead, entire towns wiped off the face of the earth, frequent aftershocks in the 5-6 magnitude range, and a very real threat of blackouts in the Tokyo area tomorrow when offices and businesses open. There’s a lot of uncertainty about what’s going to happen. I’ve been reading about economic difficulties for Japan, yet the rebuilding process will likely greatly boost Japan’s economy, with a large number of jobs being created. Japan is a resilient country. This isn’t the first time disaster has struck, and it isn’t the deadliest, but this is the most massive earthquake ever recorded in Japan since earthquakes started being measured. It is tied for the 4th largest earthquake ever recorded in the world. But in the Sendai area, they will rebuild. Homes, farms, towns, cities, they’ll rebuild. They’ll probably even rebuild all the shrines and temples that were wiped away, just as they did after World War II. This is the reality right now. I’m at home, as it’s my day off, and I’ll be returning to work on Tuesday, as usual. When I go outside, you’d never know there had just been a massive megathrust earthquake that moved Honshu 2.5 metres to the east and spawned a deadly tsunami that devastated the east coast of northwestern Japan and caused damage in Hawaii, Oregon and California. It is absolutely surreal. I still can’t believe it happened. I just experienced a 9.0 magnitude earthquake! Yes, I’m not near the epicentre, but it was frightening in Yokohama. So, this is what happened at 2:46pm on March 11, 2011.
I was teaching my first class of the day, with only 9 minutes to go until the end of the lesson. The building started shaking, and I said to my student, “Oh, it’s an earthquake.” We stopped talking and just looked at each other and the walls and door. No big deal, I’ve felt earthquakes like this before, I thought. The shaking continued for a while, and I realised that it was getting stronger. I opened the classroom door, and we immediately went out to the lobby where my student’s 4 year old son was watching a video. My coworkers and I decided that we had to evacuate immediately. Our school is on the 4th floor of a building that’s not so new, so we were quite worried. The shaking continued to get stronger. One of my students for my next class was also present, and as she was an elderly lady, we had to slowly help her down the stairs. The shaking kept getting stronger and stronger! I was wondering when it was going to end. We were all scared. I normally weather earthquakes quite well, and shrug them off, but this was nothing like I’d ever felt before. This was a violent earthquake! We finally made it out of the building, and saw many people outside.
After a few minutes, we were unsure of what to do. The ground had stopped moving, and there appeared to be no damage. We decided to go back up to the school, see what the damage was, and find out what we could do. I couldn’t get any phone calls out with my cell phone, though internet still worked. I looked up earthquake information, and it said magnitude 8.9. 8.9! Was this “The Big One?” Of course, it turned out it isn’t the big one that Kanto is expecting, but this was unimaginably huge.
We got back up to the school and found no damage. Some books had fallen off shelves, but that’s all. We wondered what to do. I was actually ready to start my next lesson, and we thought no one else would be coming. But the manager told us that we were told to evacuate. So, down the stairs we went again! But this time, I was sure to grab all of my belongings, in case we weren’t returning. One of my students arrived just as we were leaving. Class was canceled.
For the rest of the day, we were back up in the school, just waiting to see what’s going to happen. A big aftershock hit, a 7.1, but we still waited. No other students came, many had to take the train to get to the school. All trains were stopped. We wondered how we were getting home. Phones were working on and off, text messaging wasn’t working, but I could still access the internet on my phone. I made sure I left messages on Facebook to let everyone know I was ok immediately after the earthquake. The news reports were shocking. I’m sure you know what happened. Most businesses closed and didn’t allow anyone inside.
So, how did we get home? Well, after some waiting on the floor in a bank by the station for someone to pick us up, we learned that the traffic was so bad that it would take quite a while. So, we decided to start walking in the direction of Yamato. However, as we were in the station, they announced that the trains had started running, and we went to the platform. We all separated, and I took the Izumino Line to Shonandai. The train moved slowly, probably as a safety precaution. The rest of the way was uneventful, and I met up with my girlfriend to get something to eat. Restaurants were open, which is a good thing. Supermarkets were closed, and all the food was gone in convenience stores. When we arrived home, there was no damage. A light was hanging at an angle, a few things were knocked down and all the sliding doors were open. We were lucky.
Yesterday, it was difficult to get food in convenience stores. All sold out. We had to get food from restaurants. I have yet to go to any stores today, but I’ll check out the supermarket and convenience stores to see how their supplies are.
I hope that those of you who are in Japan are safe. It’s been an unforgettable experience, that’s for sure.