Remembering 3.11.2011

Remembering 3.11.2011

One year ago today Japan was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake at 2:46PM followed by a devastating tsunami that sparked a nuclear crisis.

I was in Tokyo in my office on the 26th floor of a Shinjuku skyscraper on a conference call.   I started feeling a bit dizzy as though I wasn’t feeling well.  After about 30 or 40 seconds I said to the people I was speaking to ‘sorry I need to go’.   As soon as I hung up the phone everything began to move.

Living in Tokyo I have been through many earthquakes but this one was different.   This one was more of a ‘roll’ than a ‘shake’.   It was powerful, much more than anything I have seen before and it seemed to last forever.

The rest of the day just seemed surreal…as did the days that followed.

Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

Someone had posted a video on You Tube of my office building swaying.  Our building was moving for more than 13 minutes.   When you watch it swaying remember it’s a 35 story office building that is moving.

Our building was built to sustain this type of impact from an earthquake and sustained very little damage.  A few broken windows, some wall cracks and peeling paint.

Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

All of the trains were stopped so people were left with the option of sleeping in the office or taking to the streets of Tokyo for a long walk home.   Into the evening I still had not been able to reach my wife and son so I opted for the long walk home

Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

A lot of office buildings turned their TVs on and faced them toward the street so people can follow what was going on across Japan…and the terrible situation unfolding up north.

Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

YouTube Preview Image YouTube Preview Image

Many people in Tokyo do not know how to walk home as everyone takes the train.   Police Stations gave people directions on which way to go.   Being a runner I know my way across most of Tokyo on foot and was able to find my way home and helped lead a small group that was heading my way.     After about 3 hours of walking I was able to hear from my wife via a message she posted on Facebook.

Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

I woke up very early the next morning to make sure we were stocked up on supplies as I expected things to run out quickly…   Gas was already being rationed allowing about a quarter of a tank to be purchased.

Gas rationing after the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

Bread was all but gone…

Gas rationing after the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

Shopping after the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

…and apparently a mad rush on Minestrone Soup.

Shopping after the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

As Sunday came things began to return to normal….

After the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

After the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

The spirt of the Japanese is amazing as many people returned to work on Monday…while others were understandably hesitant.    Many of the trains were running at 20-30% causing massive crowds.

After the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

As I returned to my office all of the windows had signs that said ‘Do Not Touch’… not very comforting 300 feet up.

Do not touch

The first thing I did after returning to my desk was to restock my earthquake kit.  At 10.02am another earthquake struck in Ibaraki which was around magnitude 6.2.   No damage but it was unnerving after only being in the office for an hour.  A few companies closed as the staff was visibly shaken.   I decided it was time to head home for the day…

My Earthquake Kit

Tuesday brought a somber feeling across Tokyo as people tried to understand all of the conflicting media reports…

Tokyo, Japan

Pray for Japan

Empty Shinjuku Station

Despite continued fear in the media Wednesday just seemed to be a brighter day…

Headlines after the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

I passed this beautiful young girl in the train station on my way to work.  I stopped and asked her where she was going and she said “her graduation and nothing was stopping her”… I loved her spirt.

Kimono Girl

Pray for Japan

Thursday seemed normal as repairs and safety checks continued across Tokyo…

Repairs after the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

As evening approached the Tokyo Government announced that everyone should immediately begin to commute home as Tokyo was on the verge of a blackout…   Madness ensued as people raced home.

Racing home after the news of blackouts

News after the Japan Earthquake 3.11.2011

I made it about half way home but my connecting line was already shut down when I got to Shibuya Station so I got to commute home again on foot.

Train Lines Close to avoid Blackouts

Those of us in Tokyo who experienced the earthquake did so with only minor inconveniences and a few scares.   20,000 lost their lives and the 100,000s lost their homes and everything they had.   Friday I decided to focus my energies more productively and headed down to Second Harvest Japan.    I volunteered my photography skills to help document the amazing work they are doing bringing supplies to shelters up north.   100s of companies donated their products, services or money to help support Second Harvest’s efforts.   They continue today running trucks of supplies up north.   I have donated to them several times through last year.  If you want to help Japan, please consider making a donation to Second Harvest.

Second Harvest Japan

Second Harvest Japan

I was really impressed with how the foreign community rallied behind their adopted land.   My friend Pieter built a geiger counter call iGeigie that works with his iPhone as supplies around the world rapidly vanished.   You can see a close of up Pieter’s iGeigie on Flickr.

Pieter Franken's iGeigie

Pieter and a small team of friends expanded this into Safecast building a crowd sourced radiation detection network across Japan.    If you want to help please consider making a donation to Safecast.

Safecast Japan

Another group crowd sourced a book via Twitter called Quakebook.    They garnered a ton of support and raised a pile of money for the Red Cross.     You can buy Quakebook on Amazon.com.

As the days went on reporting from international media was sensationalism, especially about what was going on in Tokyo.    I send a fairly nasty email to the editor of CNN after they reported that Tokyo had become a ‘Ghost Town’ that somehow became an iReport and got published on CNN.      Thankfully the stories didn’t continue for long after that.

The Boston Globe’s Big Picture has an amazing set of tsunami before and after photos today.   It is hard to comprehend the destruction and devastation that took place as well as the recovery.

A lot has happened in Japan over the past year but a lot of recovery is left to do.   Hopefully you will consider making a donation via one of the links above.   If you have a story to share from 3.11…please do.

Thanks for stopping by today…

 

10 Comments

  1. Wow. It has been a year. It also marks the year when I found your blog though. All I think about that time was how your photographs speaks of the situations in Japan. I particularly remember the post where the supplies of foods are running out and long walk home.
    Keep posting, Dave. Your blog is a memorable inspiration.

  2. Unfortunately Mach 11th is a dark day for so many in the world, the anyversary of the terrorist attack in madrid 9 years ago too.
    Sad day for the humanity.

  3. I remember being speechless when I first saw the images coming out of Japan as we had loved ones there.Thankfully, they were all safe. The Japanese people taught the world how to handle a devastating disaster with grace and dignity. God bless Japan…

  4. My exact sentiments as with Jennifer.

  5. This is a very good and informative report..Thanks Dave.

  6. I was in Kawasaki that day and ended up taking about 5 hours just to get back to Tamachi. It was a very surreal experience though, in my case, my mother’s side of the family were all in Sendai as was my mother that day (something I found out AFTER I managed to get a hold of my father around 11pm…). Thankfully everyone was safe though my Aunt’s house is completely washed away. I remember the US embassy not helping matters by sending out misinformation (or at least misleading information). I remember reading reports by even AP and PBS and NPR proclaiming Tokyo was a ghost town…but only because they were expecting the usual rush hour…not the rush hour that started from around 3 or 4. I remember constantly updating my FB to tell my friends back home that not only am I alive but that Japan has not sunk… Hard to believe it’s been a year…seems like it was just a few months ago…

  7. It had been a year… Time flies…
    It had been exactly a year ago i started to follow your fantastic site frequently to get a closer look and another perspective at Tokyo apart from media reports. Dave, it is very amazing and I stillf requently visit your site. And makes me wanna visit Tokyo but I ended up in Osaka in January. Keep up your good work aound the world.

  8. Thankfully my family was very far southwest of all of this in Okayama prefecture. We didn’t even feel this particular quake, but seeing the devastation and knowing that a town very much like the one you live in was utterly destroyed with thousands killed has a sobering effect. Especially when you have kids and you know folks up there lost even that … it’s hard not to feel emotional about it. I wish I could have gone north to help, but my job prevented that from happening. We sent supplies though with some folks who were going, and a pregnant couple who lived uncomfortably close to the Fukushima area moved down with us for several months.

    I watched a BBC documentary via youtube the other day that documented the earthquake and its effects through the eyes of children. Very powerful and worth the watch.

    Thanks for sharing the photos – I’ll have to make sure my family gets an earthquake kit when we move to Chiba!

  9. Les – Earthquake kits are a necessity in my mind now. Do make sure you stock up when you get to Chiba.

  10. Many thanks, Dave, for a great article – straightforward and matter of fact yet utterly heartfelt too.

    I hope if I ever get to return to Tokyo we get the chance to meet up.

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