Wednesday, March 16, 2011

James Reports From Japan

James Annan gives a blow by blow from somewhat outside the worst destruction.

It's a long, detailed post, but here are three excerpts:

We were just a few minutes outside Tsukuba when the earthquake struck. The first we knew was that the train started braking quite hard and announced that it was emergency braking. The train was swaying from side to side, so I initially wondered if there was a problem with the track, but the bouncing around got worse as we slowed and kept on after we stopped at which point the penny dropped. We had felt the 7.2 earthquake a couple of days before during the workshop, and had had a couple of large aftershocks in the night, so it wasn't too much out of the ordinary. I did wonder if the train was going to topple over sideways, and then I realised that the whole line was high up on stilts and that it might sting a bit if the whole shebang collapsed.

Fortunately he was in a country where the trains stop automatically when an earthquake happens - starting before the earthquake waves arrived.

Meanwhile, in Tokyo, jules had enjoyed a comfortable earthquake in a one year old building built to the highest earthquake standards. Apparently built on some sort of sliding mechanism, the building feels very sensitive to minor quakes, but in a biggish one, slides beautifully smoothly. Nothing at all slid around inside the building. Not even a book, or a cup...

...Back in the primary school in the middle of nowhere, when we realised that no-one present knew much more than we did and that the cavalry was probably not coming to our immediate rescue, we decided just to set off to Tsukuba on foot. We reasoned that a big town with many hotels and restaurants was probably a better bet than small village with nothing, plus I know people who work and live around there so we reasoned we might find some more support. It was hard work to convince the head honcho that us three gaijin should just head off by ourselves into the night. "It's dark! Dangerous! You'll get lost" etc etc but anyone who's lived in Japan for any length of time will be quite used to hearing that sort of stuff every time they fail to follow the set routine in the approved manner. It was about 6km pretty much straight along a main road, mostly lit (it was a clear moonlit night too) and with a decent pavement, so was not actually a serious challenge...