The Big Earthquake

My big earthquake experience:

I started the day as usual. I went to work. Prepared for my lesson. I taught one lesson then had my lunch break. I was preparing for my other four lessons for the day. Finished preparing and set up my classroom. I was in my room waiting for the students when the ground started shaking.

At first, I thought “Oh no. Not again!” Then it got bigger and stronger. I started to panic a little. I ran to the doorway and was looking into our building. My school is in a shopping center. I saw the shoppers run into the center of the aisles. Next, I heard the alarms start sounding. After the alarms, I saw staff running to get plastic shopping baskets for customers to put over their heads to protect them from anything that could fall from above.

I was freaking out, but waiting in the doorway. I heard the walls around me making terrible cracking and squeaking noises. I heard a metallic sound above me and a second later I heard water. About ten seconds after that I saw water start to drip from the ceiling. At this point the shaking seemed to get stronger and stronger. After what felt like 5-10 minutes it all stopped. People around seemed pretty panicked. Then there was an announcement in Japanese over the building loudspeaker. They stated that there was a large earthquake and that the building was safe.
The staff were still handing out baskets and customers were assembling in one place listening to the announcements.

I went outside the classroom and let the staff know that a pipe burst. They informed the building manager. I tried to call my wife to make sure she was ok. The phones were immediately busy. I tweeted about the quake for family and friends. I let everyone know that I was ok so far.

A student arrived for their lesson. I greeted them and we talked about what just happened. I saw another student and her family so we went over to them. A minute later there was a major aftershock. I saw a mother, father and a newborn and asked if they were ok and they said yes. I handed out baskets to all the other people that didn’t have them. I wanted to help but with my limited Japanese ability I felt helpless. Shortly after the aftershock stopped they started evacuating people.

I tried to contact my office to find out what to do next. I could not reach them. I talked with the neighboring company staff and she contacts the floor manager. They said I should go home. I went back out to where people were assembling. They was a little more trembling and I thought that I could not really help due to language inability and nerves. I evacuated just after my students did.

Outside, I saw some damage to the doorway of the building. The celling tiles outside the door had broken and fallen to the ground. There were so many people outside. I was actually a little surprised. The mass of people outside, all facing the building, made the scene look like a a concert.

I met my student again and started to discuss ways to get home. She drove there so she was going to drive home. Another staff member that was outside spoke English well. He told me I would have to walk. I decided to leave as I could not help the situation there. I returned the school keys to the security staff and started to walk home.

I live about seven train stations away from my work. It is normally a 35 minute train ride. It is about 17 km or about 10 miles to my house. I set out. The first obvious thing was the lack of power to traffic signals. When I left, it was still sunny outside so I was not sure if the surrounding buildings had power or not. I headed towards the station. Mini-stop (a convenience store) near the station had power and did not appear damaged. I went in and bought some tea for the walk home. I wanted to buy more but I thought I could buy it on the way home.
It looked a bit overcast and I thought it was going to rain. Along my walk home, I stopped in a lot of convenience stores to try to buy an umbrella but the lines were so long. I decided it was best to just keep walking.

I was looking at everything on the way home surveying the damage. I did not see anything that looked major. I was pretty relieved by that. The whole time I tried to contact my wife but there was no reply. I was getting worried the more time that passed. I also worried about my apartment. I was thinking about what could have fallen. What might have injured my wife if she was near it and this was making my uneasy feeling worse and worse.

I got mail! I instantly felt some relief. It was not my wife though. It was my manager asking about my situation. I explained what was going on and we exchanged a few mails about the situation. This made me uneasy again because mail was working but my wife did not reply. I made it about one third of the way home before my wife sent a message. Instant relief. I pushed on and let her know every time I reached the next train station. The biggest worry after that was wether we had power at our house or not. Along the walk, one block would not have power, the next did, the next didn’t and so on… I made it home a few hours later.

When I arrived at my apartment, my wife was in the room with two of her co-workers. She works across the street from our apartment so it made sense. They were talking and eating. They seemed ok. I didn’t feel any aftershocks while I was walking home but I guess they were pretty big and worst of all, endless.

We saw off one coworker. She had to walk about two stations to get home. We went to the other co-workers apartment to check for damage. Her apartment seemed ok so we hung out there for a while while she contacted her husband. We went back to our apartment with the co-worker to eat dinner. Her husband was stuck in Tokyo but we live in Kanagawa. It was going to be difficult for him to get home. The worst part of this was that they were going on their honeymoon the next morning. It sounds like something out of a bad movie but it is the truth. We offered to let her stay at our house for the night so she wouldn’t have to stay home alone. She accepted. We ate and she went to sleep. My wife and I could not sleep so we tried to calm our nerves by watching the latest American Idol. It didnt help much. Later in the night, we heard our friend talking on the phone. Her husband finally got a taxi and was in front of our station. I walked her to her husband and they went home. I went back home and my wife and I got some sleep. I am surprised that we slept because the aftershocks were really endless.

My wife and I needed to work the next morning so I woke up early, made some coffee and prepared for work. I woke my wife up and headed off to work. At my train transfer, I got mail from my manager that all of our schools (in Kanto) would be closed so I could head home. I turned around and went home. I went to my wife’s work to tell her the news. I was also looking for a way to watch TV. We didn’t have one. I wanted to buy an adapter for the computer but I didn’t know if our building was upgraded to a digital antenna or still had an analog one. I went to the local electronics shop to check my options. The computer option was cheaper but if we didn’t have a digital antenna then it was just a waste of money so I decided to buy a small TV. When my wife got home, the TV was set up in the kitchen she was surprised but glad. We have been following the news all day. The TV is so useful because there are early warning alarms for the next aftershocks. We can stand up, get to the door to evacuate if we need to.

My nerves are shot. I feel every little shake now (even if they dont exist).

We updated our emergency kit. We have the bags ready at the door in case we need to escape. We are waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

She needs to work tomorrow so she needs to try and get some sleep tonight.

Sorry about typos, bad grammer and so on. When I calm down I will try and fix this. There are probably a few details missing too but I got all the major things.
I will try and relax now.

About steve

I have lived in Japan since 2004. I love Japan and studying Japanese.