Japan – My Earthquake Experience

I want to stray from my usually technical content for a brief moment to talk about what happened on Fri.

As many of you may now, I am located just south of Tokyo, Japan. I had quite a scare while at my office during the earthquake. Me and my colleagues knew after about 5 seconds or so that this was unlike anything we have ever experienced in Japan. I have experienced plenty of small tremors in the past 6-7 years that at first, I wasn’t sure what to think. The ground was literally moving so much that we had to lower our center of gravity or risk falling over.

We ended up exiting the building only to have it start raining on this typically cold March day. We stayed outside for a few minutes and went back up to the 2nd floor office when things began to calm down, amid the still shaking trees and swaying telephone lines and poles.

About 5 minutes later we felt another significant aftershock, but this time I didn’t leave my office immediately. I tried to get as much information from the JMA (Japan Meterological Association) website, Twitter, etc. to find out what was going on and try and communicate with people about what was happening. Amazingly our virtual infrastructure and Internet connections in the building survived the disaster.

Immediately after I finally went outside after the aftershock, someone announced that the office was closing so that people could try and find their way home. I tried several times to contact my wife on her mobile and on our land line (yes, land line; specifically for this type of situation), but the power at our house went out and cell towers were jammed.

I headed on my own by foot to the nearest train station. It was completed shut down. I heard later that the very next station completely lost power. Add to that the fact that the safety of all the tracks had to be checked, so all trains were shut down until at least the next morning.

I ended up finding 3 other colleagues from the office at the station and we ended up finding a seat at a donut shop (Mister Donuts) and had some coffee and a few donuts. All this time, we were trying to contact our families and watch Internet broadcasts of the developing situation.

As it approached 9PM, i was finally able to reach my wife, after about 4-5 hours, albeit via e-mail. She said that she could come and pick me up, by car, along with her father. I asked her to meet me at the station, but the shops were starting to close, so I walked 15 minutes back to my office.

Upon arrival, I saw about 4-5 colleagues who were also stranded, with no way to get home. I was determined to not sleep at the office, I just wanted to get home to see my family, etc. so I was anxiously awaiting my wife’s arrival.

Once she arrived, we immediately headed towards home. The hour was about 11:30PM when we left and the traffic was not surprisingly a bit heavier than usual. I did the driving and we headed South toward the highway entrance. The highway looked good at first, traffic wise, I thought possibly because it was closed and re-opened. It turned out to be the wrong way to go. I trip that without traffic takes 40-45 minutes ended up taking 4.5 hours.

We ended up getting home safe and sound at 4:00AM Saturday morning, only to start hearing the details of the death and destruction up further north in Sendai, Fukushima and other areas. We are very thankful that we were able to avoid the trajedy that others didn’t or narrowly escaped.

Thanks for all of your support over the last year with my blog. I will be back soon. Just taking some time to reflect for a few days.

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