So there I was teaching my elementary school class about what a brown bear looks at when suddenly I was interrupted be some shaking of the ground and an announcement over the tannoy system telling the kids to get under their desks. The kids did this pretty quickly, a couple thought this would be a great occasion for a chat before getting shouted down by the home room teacher.
This process has happened a couple of times before, once for a minor quake, another for a drill, so I didn’t think too much of it. After about a minute it became clear that the ground wasn’t going to stop moving so I thought that was a good time to dive under the desk at the front of the class. I’m not sure how long I spent under there but as the stuff hanging from the walls began to fall down around me and the kids gave the odd shout all I could think of was how the earthquake simulation machine in London’s Natural History Museum had got the feeling of a quake spot on.
Eventually the quake died down and the kids all got up from under their desks and put their seat cushions on their heads. After this everyone filed to the playground and the whole thing appeared to be a bit like a fire drill from my youth. All the classes lined up while teachers took the register. What shocked me was that the kids were so calm about it all, I guess that they are well prepared for the situation. Eventually we were let back into the school and in the hall returning to class the first of many aftershocks took place, everyone was sitting on the floor quietly, for some reason there was a fish tank on a desk in the hall, I thought it best to hold on to it to stop it from falling.
So school was now officially finished for the day, parents had begun to gather at the gate and the kids could go home. I returned to the staff room and began to watch the footage of the tsunami on the TV, which was horrible, seeing live pictures seemed to make it even more real.
After sending a few messages out and about to my family and friends, my thoughts began to wonder to how I would get home. I work fairly far away from my home and we had received word that all the trains were out of action for the foreseeable future. Leaving the warmth of the staffroom at about 4.30 I noticed that the school had minimal damage, plaster from the walls and ceiling had fallen down in places and cracks had appeared in the walls. While walking to the train station I began to realise that all of the buildings around me had not suffered any lasting damage.
At the train station, it became apparent that the trains were not going to start up again for a while. I tried waiting for a taxi but none came and tried to work out a bus route using my phone but it was very difficult to sort out all the information and the bus signs were all in Japanese. So I had no option but to wait.
Fast forward an hour or so and we were finally able to get back on the trains. They ran them super slowly and only as far as the next main station. At this point I decided to get some dinner and try to chill out a bit. Later it seemed like the trains would not start up again for a while so I decided to walk, there was nothing else I could think of doing. I followed other people in the vague direction of Seya, the road filled with cars and my journey was lit up by beacons of convenience stores, Japan’s backbone, amazingly still open and serving people.
Not properly knowing the area, I managed to walk passed Seya and ended up in Yamato after a couple of hours. I decided to wait for a cab from here but found a very large queue of like minded people had formed. I waited for a total of 2 and a half hours and was kind of shocked that nobody asked where anyone else was going. Rather than try to make groups of people heading in the same direction, people were entering the cabs individually and because taxis were only arriving once every 20 minutes or so, I thought this was a wee bit off.
After those 2 and a half hours of waiting I was still ten or so people away from the front of the queue but thankfully a man from the station let us know that the trains would be up and running soon. So I got on the train and waited.
I finally returned home at 12.30 am, about 8 hours after I left work.
Of course, this is nothing compared with what has happened to people in the north of the country, I’ve heard some terrible stories and seen some terrible pictures, I hope I can find some way to help them soon.
When I got home though, I felt like it would all be over for me. However continued aftershocks, problems with a nuclear power plant and power issues are causing stress. On Sunday it seemed like things were getting back to normal for the area but it proved to be a false dawn.
At the time of writing trains are not running to conserve power and while the schools are opening in the mornings, it is impossible for me to get to work. There will be scheduled 3 hour rolling power cuts starting from today, the first of these did not materialise however and the power company say they cannot say until a short time before they are scheduled whether they will take place or not.
I must say at this point that twitter has been amazing for getting news in English about what has been going on. The likes of @makiwi and @timeouttokyo have been brilliant getting information out to people. Reports say that there is a 70% chance of a large aftershock of about magnitude 7 happening in the next couple of days. I guess that nobody knows what will happen in the short term, everyone here is just taking it 1 day at a time.
Posted In: Life