Adamu in Tokyo after the earthquake

There have been many many reports about what it’s like on the ground after the earthquake, but I thought I would offer my perspective.

The day of the earthquake, I was working in downtown Tokyo on the 29th floor of a two-year-old office building. At around 2:40pm it started rumbling, then swaying sharply back and forth. The bucho yelled for everyone to take cover, so we put on our emergency helmets and hid under the desk. The swaying continued for what felt like forever. Thinking this might be the end, I tried frantically to get my wife on the phone but it did not work. I got a hold of Mrs. Adamu via the office phones and she was fine.

Not knowing what else to do, some of us kept working on reports that needed to get published that day, even amid the aftershocks. Around 6, we started making plans to go home.

The head translator and I made our way to Ueno, where he wanted to get a hotel room. My plan was to continue all the way home. The streets were packed with people trying to get home, but it felt more like the crowd after a baseball game than a disaster. At a bicycle shop, some people were purchasing bikes to get home faster. I decided that would be a waste of money. The hotel rooms were all packed so I had the head translator stay with me.

At Ueno we decided to stop by Shoryu, a Chinese restaurant known for its big gyoza. This might not have been the safest move, since a fierce aftershock could have trapped us in the basement floor where it was located.

After that, the walk home was just a slog. The throngs of pedestrians thinned to just crowds and then just a small group as we approached Katsushika-ku.  The lines at the payphones died down around Asakusa where I updated Mrs. Adamu on our condition. On the way back, one family was offering passersby to use their toilet if necessary.

We eventually got home, turned on the TV and the first thing we saw was Kesennuma-shi on fire. Made me sick to my stomach. Wanted to shower but the gas had been turned off. We later realized it was an automatic shutdown for safety during the earthquake. The apartment was only lightly damaged. My computer monitor had been pushed forward off the front of the desk and was hanging by its cables. The laundry detergent had spilled behind the machine. For some reason all the sliding windows were open.

Couldn’t sleep because of aftershocks. The next morning Mrs. Adamu got late morning trains back home.

Since then life has been a little surreal. I have not missed a day of work, but I was among the very few in the office on Monday since the rolling power cuts left many train lines out of commission. The news is a constant, numbing stream of tragedy and emergency warnings. I have not really had the heart to do much blogging about it.

All in all, I am thankful that Tokyo was spared and cannot complain much about the situation given the devastation up north. Still, it’s tense and everyone is pretty nervous. Some friends and coworkers have sent their families elsewhere. Food is gone from the supermarket shelves. My mom has been receiving many many calls from friends and relatives asking about me, and she is freaking out about the nuclear situation.

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7 thoughts on “Adamu in Tokyo after the earthquake”

  1. How long did the hike home take? Might be faster to walk to work (or cycle of course): I see TV images of queues for trains stretching for blocks.

    Out here on the Japan Sea coast we didn’t even feel it, and life carries on as normal – save for a shortage of larger batteries and instant ramen, a combination of panic buying and redirecting extra shipments to the disaster areas, I understand. It’s surreal watching the news bulletins, and then looking out my window on complete normality.

    I once stayed in Kesennuma, for one night with a family there, when I was in high school. It was a peaceful little fishing port, smelling rather of fish around the market, which we visited. We also visited the local fisheries office, which gave us lunch, and were taken out on a ferry to Oshima, and there was a reception party that night at the high school. From memory, much of the housing in Kesennuma is in the hills, as are things like the high school. The flat was commercial, industrial, and older residential – precisely the area where the older people, less able to flee, are likely to live. The people that hosted me lived in a nice big house on a hill, so should have survived, but I can’t help wondering how they are coping….

  2. My walk home was just under 10 km and I did it in about 2 hours, though I was walking faster than the flow of traffic and jogged around several particuarly slow crowds.

    Trains were running close to normal in Tokyo today.

  3. My favorite part of your walking directions was :

    “2. Go up the hallway stairs 16 m”

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