Friday, March 11, 2011

The Great Earthquake

I guess around 2:30 I took off for the train station. Everything seemed normal. We got past Ochiai Minami-Nagasaki, reached Nakai just fine. Just as we left things started to seem strange. I was in my usual falling asleep daze when something seemed strange. The train started to make it's usual announcement in Japanese, "The next station is..." but then it never said Higashi-Nakano. In fact, there was a strange rumble and the train came to a complete halt. The train continued rumbling and everyone began looking at each other wondering if someone else held the answer to what was going on.

The word "earthquake" spread like wildfire throughout the train. A middle-aged woman dressing much younger than her age and even wearing a bow on her head cried out she didn't want to die and clung to the salaryman in his early 20s next to her. I think it was the first time for several us who were in that car experiencing an earthquake while riding on the train. A train attendant came through from the back of the train and announced that it was an earthquake.

The earthquake continued on for quite a bit longer than usual. This was the first time I've ever seen Tokyoites leave their personal bubbles behind and talk to the complete strangers they were riding with. Not to mention, in particular the gal sitting next to me talking to me without second thought to whether or not I actually spoke Japanese. Or perhaps she had some doubt, but since I could say "earthquake" and "this is my first time experiencing an earthquake while on a train" (granted it's a lot simpler in Japanese...) she went on chatting with me during the situation like I was a normal Japanese.

Shortly after the driver of the train told us the magnitude of the earthquake, though I didn't quite catch what he had said. We quickly started up again and reached Higashi-Nakano. We were all kicked off of the train and told to wait while they inspected the safety of the tunnels. Since we were underground and I had no access to the internet or anything of the sort, I didn't realize how bad things were and I just assumed that it wouldn't take too long before we'd be on our way again. The strange thing that I noticed though was that I wasn't getting any service at all though somehow I managed to send a few messages.
Shortly after we got off the train another big earthquake happened. It was kind of amusing the watch the train wobble back and forth. The announcements explaining there had been a big earthquake and that they were inspecting the tunnels began repeating over and over. Some people left though those who stayed found themselves a pillar and took a nap or found other things to do. I ended up taking a nap myself though about an hour later I received a bunch of messages that were originally sent an hour before. I didn't quite understand what was going on, but for the rest of the evening my cell phone wasn't really working at all.

More time passed, and they eventually took the original train away. About a half hour later, they brought another train in. We thought we would finally get going, however they did not open the train doors. More time passed, they opened the trains for us to sit in but didn't say when we would be moving. A few moments later there was an announcement about tsunamis and that JR had been shut down for the day and they do not know whether it will be up and running again tomorrow. They still were not sure when the line I was riding on would be up again.

Eventually three hours total had passed since the first quake. I was getting hungry and after the third announcement about the tsunami and JR I decided it was time to give up on going to Shinjuku and go home. I ended up following another lady out, who spoke to me on the escalator, asking me if I could understand what was going on. I told her I could, and then asked her how long it would take me to walk home. She said probably an hour and a half, but if I took the bus it might take an hour. I decided I would opt for the walking home considering I have been skipping out on exercising recently.

Since I was hungry, I first stopped by a nearby 7-Eleven, pulled out some money, grabbed some food. I asked them if they had a map that could lead me to my home station and they were sure. However a lady was able to point me in the proper direction but said I would have to turn left at some point. She was right. After studying a map at a nearby station, I figured I could get there by following the big roads, and so began my journey together with several other people also making their ways home.
It took me two hours, but I finally made it home by going straight for a long while, took a left, and then kept going straight until I got home, just as the lady said. It was especially helpful that the signs for cars also helped to let me know I was going in the proper direction and where to properly turn. The above is the mess that greeted me. That toaster oven normally rests on top of the microwave! Luckily that was the worst of it for us, though the stuff in the bathroom got jostled around a bit.

I came home to several emails asking about my safety, caught up on Twitter, and then proceeded to worry about my boyfriend. He didn't end up getting home until a few hours after me. It turns out that he had actually been stuck inside of the train for over five hours. Ouch!! Considering I did not have my DS or a book on me, I am really glad I was not in the same situation.

When I got home I was also tuned into the other disasters that were occurring throughout Japan. My friend Sabrena tried to inform me of it earlier through emailing my phone, but I didn't actually receive them until after I got home due to the limited phone service in Tokyo.

There has been ten aftershocks since I have gotten home. They are predicting there will be another big one, and I am afraid of when it will hit...but for now, all is fine with us. I hope it will remain this way.


  1. I'm glad you're safe! I've been keeping up with your tweets so I hope you stay safe through all of the aftershocks :(

  2. @D~tan: Thank you! I hope the aftershocks won't get any worse. For now they're just shaky tremors. ><

  3. Thank God you are safe. We love you and are so proud of you. We know you want to stay but know if you want to come home we will bring you home anytime.