Sunday, March 11, 2012

A year ago in Japan

Today marks exactly one year since the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  It's crazy to think that it's already been an entire year since it happened.

In case you didn't know, Ryan and I spent a little over a year teaching English in Japan.  During the end of our school year was when the earthquake hit.  I always meant to blog about Ryan's and my experience, but just never did.  It's difficult for me to know how and what to write about it.  So, I'm just going to recount our day.  We were about an hour South of the epicenter and inland, so we had no tsunami effects in our area but still felt the huge earthquake.

Thankfully, it was a day when both Ryan and I had a day off together (I seriously don't know what I would have done if I had been alone), and we decided to head north to spend our day shopping and sightseeing.  After eating a lunch of gyoza, we headed to the mall.  We had just walked through the glass doors when Ryan noticed that the ceiling lamps in the Starbucks were swaying back and forth.  He paused and asked if there was an earthquake.  

Earthquakes are so common in Japan that no one really pays any attention to them.  And that's what happened at first.  People just kept doing what they were doing until the earthquake continued to build and didn't die down like usual.  The ceiling lamps were crashing into each other by that point and things were starting to fall off of shelves in the stores.  Then people started saying things in Japanese we didn't understand and started rushing out of the building.  We figured they knew what they were doing so we followed them out to the street (I had always heard not to go outside during an earthquake...but panicked and figured it was what we should do in the moment).  It was the eeriest feeling watching the buildings around us sway.  Tiles were falling off of the building and cars were stopped in the middle of the road.  It felt like it lasted forever.  When the shaking finally stopped we knew we had to get somewhere in the open (not surrounded by tall buildings) for the aftershocks.

We made it to a parking lot for the first aftershock. After that, we headed to an open park where we waited out a few more aftershocks until we decided to try and head home.  All public transit was non-operational so we ended up taking the longest and most expensive cab ride back to our apartments (I think it was almost $200 USD).  It wasn't until the cab ride home that we saw (on the TV in the cab) images of the tsunami.  The footage they showed was shocking, until that point we had just thought it was a huge earthquake.

When we got back to our apartments, things were knocked over and we had no power.  The rest of the day and night there were constant aftershocks.  We heard about the Fukushima "meltdown" a couple days later.   By then we had power back (we were very fortunate, many cities north of us remained without power for much much longer) and were able to check the news regularly.  The remainder of our school classes were cancelled for the year (which was almost over anyway) and under the advisement of the US Embassy (and our families), we decided to go home a couple weeks ahead of schedule.  

One of the storefronts we walked past on the way to the parking lot

As I'm sure you know, Japan is still in the process of recovering from this devastating event.  It will take many years and constant help to continue the progress they've begun to make.  If you can help, here is a link to many options for relief funding for Japan from the 2011 tsunami and earthquake.

1 comment:

  1. what an experience you had !
    I hope & pray that things get better in Japan.