Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The day the earth moved aka Japan day 3

This is my personal experience of the earthquake in Japan. I have shared these details as a kind of diary for myself. It has taken me a long time to be able to write about it so please dont think I am making light of anything if you decide to read the below, its just my style of writing.

So day 3 of the Japan honeymoon required more bullet train travel - from Osaka to Tokyo to be exact.

Now as you have read (if you read this blog regularly), we had crammed a fair amount of sightseeing in to the previous 2 days so decided to set out midmorning on our next journey rather than wait till the afternoon as originally planned. This turned out to be a wiser decision in the long run believe it or not - if we left later, we would have been stranded on the train for the night.

So on that beautiful Friday morning, we headed to the Shin-Osaka station and boarded the Shinkansen to Tokyo. Don't worry, there was no seat confusion this time as we took the liberty of reserving seats - too much hassle otherwise whilst carrying luggage.

The 2 hour and 20 minute trip was relatively uneventful although we did get a clear view of Mount Fuji and a few ski fields - the towns between Osaka and Tokyo look pretty industrial and VERY cold!

Arriving as Tokyo station was exciting and we wandered a bit searching for the correct line to take us to Shinjuku and our hotel before pinpointing an information centre and sourcing a map. The map enabled smooth sailing and we were at Shinjuku and our hotel in the blink of an eye.

Checking in to the Sunroute Plaza was achieved with total ease and we made our way up to our 11th floor room to dump our stuff before setting out to explore the crazy city of Tokyo. Time check... this was about 2:20pm.

Bathroom break, luggage arranged and we were ready to set out for an afternoon of sightseeing. At the door waiting for S to gather his gloves, he stood up and said he felt shaky on his feet like the room was swaying. After a second, I told him that I felt the swaying feeling too. Then we heard creaking and S looked out the window before exclaiming 'OMG the room is shaking, this is an earthquake!'

Standing in the doorway to the hall, I yelled at S to get out of the room and follow me. He kept looking out the window to see the adjacent highrise swaying across our sight with the workers scrambling to hold their desks or get under them. All the while the shaking/swaying was intensifying and I was shouting at S to get out - my theory was to get to the elevator shafts (no, not in the elevator) as that area of the building is generally the strongest reinforced part so in my head, the safest at a time like this.

Finally S followed me out of the room and by this stage the building was rocking and it was hard to maintain balance. S got thrown into the opposite wall then back again to the ground while I was struggling to stay upright. Shouting at S to get up, I looked around the hall and saw 3 maids sobbing and sreaming in terror which made me even more determined to stay on my feet and keep moving. I figured if they were frightened, this can't be normal or good in anyway.

After what we were later told was about 3 1/2 to 4 minutes, the movement stopped and everything was silent. I looked at S with tears in my eyes and told him I wanted to get downstairs. Obviously the lifts were shut down so we searched the maze of hallways for the stairs. When we found the stairs they were electro -locked and this was my undoing. I burst into tears and told S that we were going to die and that I didn't want to die.

An American lady came out of her room and tried to comfort me by telling me that we would be ok and Japan, especially Tokyo, is built for earthquakes but upon seeing my rising distress, she found a maid and explained that I wanted to go downstairs. The maid took us down the hidden service stairs (the stairwell was filled with cracks in the walls and piles of cladding/render that had fallen off) where we met a young Japanese American guy and his girlfriend.

S asked what was going on and the guy told us this was pretty bad, that earthquakes were normal but this one was really bad. He then told us he was headed to reception to change their room to a lower floor so siezing on this, we headed down to do the same and were lucky enough to get moved to the 3rd floor before the rush of guests came down trying to do the same thing.

Room sorted, I just wanted to get outside where I thought things wouldn't be so scary so we headed out to the street in front of our hotel. Looking around, there were people everywhere streaming out of buildings and going in every which direction. There were sirens and loud hailers and people broadcasting instructions but of course they were in Japanese so we could only stand there and wonder what to do or where they were headed.

Shaking I turned to S, still crying and repeated that I didn't want to die yet and that I wanted to say goodbye to our parents first. S grabbed me in a hug even though he was shaking and held me tight while I sobbed telling me that we would be ok. I calmed a little until after about 30 mins of standing on the street, another big quake/tremor hit and everyone screamed and the 40/50 storey buildings around us began to sway.

By this stage, I was absolutely convinced we were going to die - I didn't know anything about earthquakes really, apart from the devastation in Christchurch recently, I didn't know if they got worse and came in waves, if that was the end of it. I think that was the scariest, waiting to see if another big one was going to happen. See apparently earthquakes only last about 20-30 secs but the big one we had went for almost 4 mins and got worse as it went on.

After 2 hours on the street, it started to rain so we had to go back into the hotel. The lobby bar and restaurant was open to guests and our lobby was filling up quicky with displaced workers who couldn't get home. We managed to get a table in the restaurant and it turned out there were a few other groups of Aussies staying so we stuck with them and had a drink, trying to calm down.

TBC ...

1 comment:

  1. I can not imagine how you must have been feeling throughout it all.
    You must be feeling so safe to be back at home.