Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Rock'n in Tokyo

East exit of Shinjuku Station, Tokyo, together...Image via Wikipedia

This is a letter i received from a good friend of mine living in  Japan. It was so compelling I asked if he would share it which he agreed. 


Just wanted to touch base. Just started a job on the 28th and was at the office in downtown Tokyo when it hit. Was on the 22nd floor of a 54 story building and the building was swaying in what I would call a spectacular fashion. This was much worse than the 89 Loma Prieta quake in the San Jose Ca area by far. Standing upright was very challenging. The quake itself lasted more than 3 minutes and the building continued to move much longer. Have had almost 3 major aftershocks per hour ever since and just writing my recollections about this gives me vertigo. No one panicked probably because we have temblors here all the time (1 or 2 a month). After the the first minute and the shaking didn't stop I thought maybe it was just the building movement but that motion usually subsides this however was different in that it just wasn't slowing down. Power, internet, water and gas service incredibly were not interrupted at all in the area both during and after the quake. We were wondering how bad things were because looking out the window you couldn't tell. Probably because all the other buildings were swaying the same way. I was glad that no smoke was visible through the office windows and no other signs of damage were visible and was vainly hoping that it was just another slightly larger than the average event. This view of course would change as hours later we learned the true extent of the damage.

After the swaying stopped some of the staff wanted to get back to work not really realizing what had happened. People were trying to use there cell phones Those of us who have experienced major events or watched the buildings attacks on 9/11 unfold knew that getting out quickly when it seemed safe was the prudent course of action. Entering the stairwell I was surprised that not many people were evacuating and incredibly some were going up the stairway. While the buildings structure held up really well in the office area and no obvious damage was visible. The stairwell on the other hand had a lot of masonry on the edges of the floor. This was dislodged by the difference in motion of the stairs and the main structure. The walk downstairs as you can imagine was a long one and we began to see many people as we got to lower levels. Once in the building lobby it was packed with folks but there was no sense of panic just anxiety as to whether it was all over or more was yet to come. Going outside was a real sight, the usually bustling walkways with folks were now overcrowded with people going every which way or gazing up at the many skyscrapers that line the streets. Not many cars were on the road yet but lots of  pedestrians were.

We ducked into a cafe and sat down to get our wits together and wait things out for awhile. We heard passersby's saying that all train service had shut down and that most road ways were filled with people and cars at a virtual stand still. The streets outside were very crowed with folks too afraid to stay in the skyscraper office building in the area. After about an hour I went to Shinjuku station which is the one I use now and one of the major train hubs in town and found all train lines were shutdown (no shock there). I was concerned about getting home and could tell that about 2 million others were as well based on the size of the crowds. This station has about 3 million pass through it on an average day in which this was turning out to be anything but average. Train officials using loud speakers were calling out and numerous signs were posted saying that, yes indeed, everything was stopped indefinitely. It was here for the first time we could see TV news reports of what was happening and that it was truly bad. We went back to the cafe and stayed there for a few hours and after dark two of our group decided to walk back home and the rest of us decided to go back up in the building. The aftershocks had subsided a bit and were now only about one per minute as opposed to 5. It was getting really cold so a warm well lit environment was a welcome respite.

Once up in the build which was functioning again I was able to contact the family and let them know I was ok and that they had all gotten home. All but my youngest (a 4th grader) were home when the quake hit. He was walking home from school with a number of others and he was found they were all safe and sound. My oldest son then guided them home. They not know how I was or exactly where we naturally concerned and it was more than six hours I was able to contact them using a skype internet connection. In the past I had casually mentioned that I could walk if push came to shove in such a situation and were worried that I had. Knowing as I do that you don't go wandering off after night fall in near freezing weather after a major disaster had decided against such a move. I had confirmed that train service was still down I and the other employees were resigned to spending the night at the office on the 22nd floor. Not my first choice of places to be but considering the shivering tired faces of those at the station decided it was probably the best place.

It wasn't till after 1am that one of the managers learned some segments of the train lines had reopened and with some planning could navigate his way to his home station. He knowing that we lived nearby suggested I come with him and that he and his wife could drive me home once we arrive. Well after a long night of train connections and waiting in line we were able to get to his station and his wife was waiting for us. It was by far the most tiring journey of my life and was thankful to see it finally come to an end. We arrive at my house about sun up and was grateful that while there was visible damage it wasn't anywhere near as bad as we had seen other areas. Finding my family safe at the neighbors house was a welcome sight to see. 

The house we are renting is pretty far outside of Tokyo but had damage and some older homes are in pretty bad shape. Fortunately we had long ago planned for this and had things bolted, locked and strapped down so nothing had fallen or been broken. Our neighborhood watch group had helped everyone shut off gas and power until it could be determined it was safe to have on. Our house like others in the area unfortunately will require some work to get it back to the way it was before. Our landlord has advised us that we will have to leave the house temporarily. With having been under employed for more than a year now this is going to be a major hardship and we have no way to pay for the temporary relocation amongst other things needless to say. I know others however were not so fortunate, loss of loved ones and as you saw on the news escaped only with their lives and clothes on their back. We are however in dire straights at the moment.

The sheer scale of the damage is not (nor can it) accurately portrayed in the news. Food now in stores is almost non-existent right now and the prices of everything have shot up. With the disruption of transport and the like it is not known how or if this will be short or a longer term issue.

Best Regards,

Dave F.
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Sunday, March 13, 2011


An 8.9 earthquake off the shore of Japan triggered a 23-foot tsunami killing thousands. People were running for their lives, but they could not escape the massive wave of water and debris. The Tsunami carried away
homes, ships, cars and people. The people living in Onahama Japan where the nuclear power plant is were told to move back two miles from the nuclear power plant in case of leakage. Now the people are evacuating because the unclear power plant is leaking. The Tsunami that hit Japan was horrific, it could have been devastating if would have happened at night. Not only did it affect Japan it also affected the Hawaiian Islands and the Western Coastal States. Hawaii and the West Coast had a warning unlike
Japan. Crescent City California harbor and docks were destroyed and damage is in the multi millions. Santa Cruz California was hit hard by this tsunami, there docks and harbor were damaged as well. Boats were swept out
to sea, but some people did not heed the warning to stay away from the beach. People were walking their dogs and had their children on the beach. These people have to be some of the stupidest idiots I have ever seen.Three men  decided to take their cameras to the Klamath River in Del Norte County to get pictures. All three were swept away by a surge two made it back to shore, but the other one is still missing. The traffic was a nightmare on highways 17 and 152. Streetwise Special Delivery Courier driver was caught in the traffic this morning it took him two and a half
hour to get back to San Jose. He saw people camped out on the side of the roads with their families they were still in their pajamas under blankets. People of California are you ready for a tsunami as big as the one that hit Japan; it is going to happen one day.