I have been living here in Japan for over 10 years now and have gotten used to earthquakes. However, the quake on March 11, 2011 was the first to rattle me. First of all, thanks to all that have contacted me to inquire about my safety. I am safe. Yokohama is located 330+km (206 miles) south of Sendai, though we did feel the quake rather strongly. I was teaching grade 6 art at the time and at first we thought it was a typical minor tremor. However, it continued and increased in strength. The students went under tables as they have been regularly trained to do and were rather calm. Fortunately, no damage was done to the school and no students were hurt. After my class finished, I viewed the live stream of the tsunami. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
Cell phones were the first things to fail. Instead, students logged onto Facebook to make contact with family and friends almost immediately. Trains were disrupted and students were not dismissed until a parent came to pick them up. I stayed at school (with students) until 7pm. I then walked home to a blackout in my area to turn off my apartment breakers etc. There was no severe damage apart from a fallen lamp and picture frames. As I had no electricity, I returned to school to use the internet in an attempt to get in touch with my wife. Several staff and students were still stranded, but most found homes to stay in for the night by 9:30pm. My co-worker and I returned to my apartment around 10:30 as he had no way to return to his Tokyo apartment. I finally made contact with my wife around 11pm who was safe.
Our school decided to close for the week, which also fell just before our two week spring break. Since then, we have been following the news, having tremors, following the news, tracking radiation reports and following the news. Several teachers and families took “holidays” early and I can’t really blame them. I am stuck here as my wife still has to work, though she is staying with her parents. For the last 4 days, I have been home alone watching coverage on NHK World.
Though physically alone, I am “not.” Through Twitter, Skype, Gmail and Facebook, I have been able to communicate with other friends here and with friends overseas. Thank you for your updates and messages. It’s hard to answer when people ask why I am not leaving. I originally had a scheduled holiday trip to Canada on March 22. My wife is still working (!) and I am not going to leave her behind. It’s getting hard to get flights. I am still not sure what to do with that scheduled flight I have booked as I was going alone. Hopefully things regarding the reactors get under control.
On this note, I must stress that things in the Tokyo area are rather calm. Of course there are shortages etc., but people are not heavily panicked. Watching NHK World has been a godsend. BBC coverage has also been informative. However, for my friends watching overseas, CNN and Fox have not. I have CNN here and watched it at times. I did not appreciate the dramatic title sequences with their cinematic and emotive musical scores. They instilled fear. I had to reassure my mother Friday evening that I was not seriously affected by the quake after her watching news reports.
Though I do not want it to appear like everything is truly fine and I am unaffected, I do wish to remind family and friends not to start rumours or spread panic like the French embassy incident.
Thanks again for all your comments and warm messages. It has also been pleasing to note how people do pull together during times like these and some of our students and alumni have also been trying to figure out how to help through here, here and other charitable groups. If you can, please try to donate or support a group. Thank you again for your support. Thank you NHK World and Yukio Edano for your coverage and updates and especially to the last 50 workers currently trying to find solutions. No thanks to CNN etc.