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Earthquake in Japan – Tokyo experience

Day 1 – Friday 11th of March

At 2:40PM the biggest earthquake in the living history of Japan struck the North-East coast. We in Tokyo, of course felt it too. In fact, our office building was shaking like marshmallow – two design monitors got broken, furniture fell, books were pushed out of shelves, ceiling partially broken down.. I was so scared, I couldn’t think straight. That was the moment I realized how I am really full of shit and cannot take care of myself if something bad ever happens to me. I saw people holding the furniture, keeping it from falling down while giving instructions for evacuation whereas I was under the table crying… Luckily, when the biggest shake was over, I could compose myself and start taking control of the situation. Our company is extremely organized so in less than 5 minutes everyone was out on the street grouped by divisions with Note PCs and mobile phones out tracking those who were out in the city. 20 minutes later I tried to get back to the office to secure my PCs and make sure that all my data was save when it started to shake again so I had to run out immediately. It took me an hour to finally do it. Elevators didn’t work so I had to run up and down the 8th floor several times.

Then, our CEO asked everyone who could go home to do so and those who lived too far to walk (all the trains were out of service), stay in a nearby hotel or office. It was impossible to catch a taxi or get into an overpacked bus so I walked back home. It wasn’t too bad, it took me only 1h20mins. When I got there, everything was a mess. Books, makeup, food from pantry was out on the floor but surprisingly nothing was broken, not even my precious Patagonian rocks that were in a glass display.

Mobile phones didn’t work so I couldn’t get hold of my husband. Luckily, he works in the safest area in Tokyo so I wasn’t worried about him too much.

I was glued to the TV screen for the rest of the day. When I am experiencing extreme levels of stress I become very sleepy. I’ve heard that it’s pretty common in some people. So, by 10PM I felt like I haven’t been sleeping for days… That day, I slept for 12 hours straight..

Day 2 – Saturday 12th of March

On Saturday, there was supposed to be a big Russian spring party in Ginza. All my friends were going and I was really looking forward to it. Of course it got canceled like everything else in the next couple of days. My friend Gow is performing in a play on Friday and it is also about to be canceled. Moreover, there is no fashion week this time..

All day, I spent at home watching TV, studying Japanese, stressing out and because of that doing absolutely nothing else. I hate wasting my time but I really couldn’t concentrate on any work at all…

Day 3 – Sunday 13th of March

On Sunday morning, I could no longer bear staying indoors and watching TV. The horrifying news about problems at the Daiichi nuclear plant were just too much to handle so I went out to church for Sunday service. The church was collecting donations to the victims of the earthquake and it also had a special service to pray for those who died and those who were left with nothing..

After church, me and Jenya had lunch at our favorite cafe. Her daughter Julia experienced adrenaline for the first time in her 7 year old life so for her it was one big adventure… I know how she felt because when tanks moved past the suburbs of Saint Petersburg in 1989 to bring an end to Soviet Union, I felt nothing but thrill…^-^

Day 4 – Monday 14th of March

This morning, I went to the office by bus instead of train. It’s hard to squeeze into Yamanote line train on a normal day. Today, it was almost impossible unless you are prepared to wait and wait and wait..

Half of the people especially those living outside of Tokyo were taking day off due to their inability to commute. I think the whole week is going to be either involuntary vacation or home working for those who can’t come. Some of the guys on my team remembered it is White day today – a girl’s version of Valentine’s day which in Japan is reserved for guys. I got lots of candies and cookies. ^-^ Surprisingly, at the time of crisis I lose weight the most even though I’m eating lots of junk food…

Several hours into work, it started to shake again but I had to look at other people to confirm that because after so many shakes I can no longer tell if it’s real or it’s the trembling of my own body. I feel a bit nauseous because I am focusing my eyes on the screen while being in motion…

The lights and air conditioning are off so it’s pretty hot right now. Everyone is saving energy.

3:22

Now it’s shaking every couple of minutes or so… Two of my close friends have just mailed me saying they are leaving for at least a week. I’m pretty optimistic about the safety of Tokyo but when people around you start to flee, it gets a bit scary..

3:53

Another aftershake…

4:26

Another aftershake…and terrible news about the 3rd reactor of Daiichi energy plant in Fukushima.

I left office at 7PM hoping rush hour was over by then. Unfortunately, the Yamanote line platform was still full of people and in 10 minutes that I stood there, no train came. So, I went outside and hopped on a bus that took me 40 minutes to get home but I guess it’s way better than standing on a platform waiting for a train that may not come just to be squeezed into, then smashed in it for several painful stops.

Shibuya was very quiet and very dark. Big advertising screens were off and there were little people on Hachiko square. Most of the shops were closed all day or got closed by 5PM.

There are 4 Starbucks on my way home – all 4 were closed..

Now, I am back home checking my trading account.. Stock market opened and I lost all my profit in one day..

Day 5 – Tuesday 15th of March

A big shake woke me up around 5AM, then more alarming news on TV – the ventilation system of a reactor got broken and the cooling is failing again… Checked Facebook – more friends are leaving Japan. Nothing bad is really happening in Tokyo but the atmosphere is unsettling.. At least there are more trains today and my package from revolveclothing.com is finally out of customs which means that daily life is slowly returning back to normal.. ^-^

11:37

I just got a call from Jenya. She and her daughter are boarding the plane for Moscow..

14:27

I’ve just read on Facebook that higher than normal levels of radiation were detected in Tokyo. I don’t know if it’s true but I am being kicked out of office and asked to stay home so it’s pretty scary.

Just checked aeroflot.ru – only 3000USD business class tickets are left for the whole week ahead…

I went to my local supermarket to buy some food while it still operated (most of the shops are closed by 5PM these days) but there was no food… Some people on Facebook suggested to buy everything you need in the morning and avoid overstocking as it creates unnecessary panic.. Well, I bought my honey melon and was done with shopping. ^-^

My mom is a victim of this earthquake too. She is so worried I have to sound extra cheerful when talking to her on the phone. And I have to call several times a day… 1 hour ago all phones were down so I had to use skype.. What is up with that? I thought they were working already…

6:15

The news on TV just announced that 1st and 3rd reactors at Daiichi nuclear plant are stable and they are researching the condition of the 2nd one right now. People living in the radius of 30km are asked to stay indoors.. Here in Tokyo, we are wearing face masks just in case! ^-^

9:19PM

The usual TV programs start to pop up again – it’s not just news anymore which is a bit reassuring that things are getting better. My friend Lille is on the channel 9 right now. ^-^

Day 6 – Wednesday 16th of March

I woke up this morning and there are more unsettling news on TV. The 4th reactor is on fire again and my friend Laura who was one of the optimistic ones fled to Kobe.. Should I go to Kansai as well?

10:23

I’m in the office. The 4th reactor is fine and the stock market is slowly recovering. The loss that I experienced yesterday is not as big as today. I don’t care about the lost profit as long as I can return my own money and I am almost there. ^-^

I was planning to go to Kyoto at the beginning of April but decided not to wait that long and changed my tickets to this weekend. Next Monday is holiday so I will be spending 3 days in Kyoto. ^-^

12:55

Earthquake in Chiba, our office was shaking for 10 or so seconds.

13:18

Earthquake again.. not very big one.

I found a very good article on radiation. Please read if you still think it’s dangerous to be in Tokyo right now:

http://www.simon-cozens.org/content/radiation-tokyo-how-read-geiger-counter

7:50PM

People, stop overstocking on food! For the second day I can’t buy bread or rice.. Tomorrow I’m going to shop in the morning! There are still plenty of vegies though so I am cooking tons of soups and casseroles. ^-^

Good thing, market has recovered a bit so I could sell my stocks and get most of my money back. Hopefully, one day I’ll regain lost profit as well…

Day 7 – Thursday 17th of March

My reservation of a trip to Kyoto didn’t go through so I moved it back to April… But, I found three airlines that still have tickets to Moscow just in case something happens. ^-^

Here is a good article in Russian that explains about radiation. I’m posting it specially for my Russian friends and family who panic and make my life difficult…

http://olegart.ru/wordpress/2011/03/15/3241/

Here is another article that is addressed to family and friends in Russia. If you are yet another friend who after 10 years of silence suddenly writes me to ask if I’m ok, please kindly read this article:

http://novostivl.ru/msg/14942.htm

I AM OK!

5:19PM

Going home as there have been an official statement saying that number of trains will be reduced to save more electricity.

I was just in time for the last train. Unfortunately, my husband is walking home at this very moment. But it is totally fine as long as this energy saving helps.

Aeroflot increased the number of daily flights from Tokyo and the tickets are back on sale. I’m staying put for a while but I have registered myself with the embassy yesterday in hopes of getting their assistance if something extreme takes place. They have also reassured me that the visa arrangements for my husband can be done within one day.

A nice article on the worst case scenario assessment

http://ukinjapan.fco.gov.uk/en/news/?view=News&id=566914282

My local supermarket promises big delivery tomorrow and other people have sent tweets with pictures of toilet paper and bread from various parts of Tokyo. Soon, the evacuees from Sendai will come to Tokyo so we will have to not OVERSTOCK and leave plenty for those who really need it.

There were two small aftershakes this evening. I hope soon they will stop for good. We are saving energy which means no heating so I’m going to bed early. Good night everyone!

Day 8 – Friday 18th of March

Beautiful day in Tokyo, I’m back in the office – another working day before three consecutive holidays! Yay!

There is an online press conference with people who live in Tokyo. We are answering your questions so if you have something you want to know about present situation in Tokyo and Japan, send us your questions here:

На данный момент, в интернете идет конференция с проживающими в Токио и других частях Японии. Если Вы хотите задать какие-то вопросы, шлите их сюда:

http://primamedia.ru/chat/124/

Day 9, 10, 11 – Saturday, Sunday, Monday 19th, 20th, 21st of March

Since we had three days of holidays in Japan, I went on a little trip to Mie prefecture which is in the middle of Japan. I will write a separate post about it. One thing worth mentioning here is that there were no worried people, no energy saving, no shortage of gasoline or food. It was like a completely different country – life went on as it always was. It was refreshing not to think about aftershakes or radiation levels for a change. ^-^

Day  12 – Tuesday 22nd of March

I came back to Tokyo this morning. The shift in radiation background has been detected but it’s still pretty small to make any harm. However, because Tokyo met me with rain, I decided to cover up and wear mask on my way home. Now, I am back at the office, working as usual, listening to the news. Later, I’ll post some updates regarding Dai-ichi plant’s current situation.

Back to Tokyo, back to earthquakes – two big ones in the first part of the day, another one just now..

19:05

Leaving office now. Will check supermarket if it has more food than last Thursday. Just got a mail from my husband asking to wear mask and use umbrella because it’s raining now in Tokyo. Hopefully this rain is really not harmful as official reports claim. ^-^

Current updates on Dai-ichi nuclear plant:

Unit 1 & Unit 2

The energy cable has been connected to the transmitters. Both units are getting rigged soon. Unit 2 had white smoke late yesterday but it was too dark to investigate. Don’t know anything about it since then.

Unit 3

The gray smoke detected earlier was identified as vapor and more water has been doused in. The water operation is complete for today.

Unit 4

The rescue team has started to use German-made pumping drainage to pump water into the spent-fuel storage pool of unit 4. Don’t know the results yet.

Unit 5

Full scale cooling restored.

Unit 6

Temperature is down to 36.5C which is within normal.

The information is provided by Tom Killian.

The supermarket next to my house has some of the foods back in stock. I could buy bread, milk and pasta. Curry sauces are also available once again but as you can see on this photo, many shelves have notices attached to them limiting the number of items one can buy at a time.

10:52

Earthquake again…

Day 13 – Wednesday 23rd of March

No shakes, a small one in the morning but nothing since then. People say there were a couple today but I didn’t feel it. ^-^

The situation at the nuclear plant is more or less under control now. They are connecting each unit to the energy and repairing cooling systems. The gray smoke that was detected couple of hours ago coming from the unit 3 turned out to be burnt grease resulted from the overheated chamber.

Here is some more info again thanks to Tom Killian and Facebook.

The current status of “Containment Vessel Pressure”
It seems stable, therefore it is unlikely there would be any further explosion.
Unit-1 Stable
Unit-2 Stable
Unit-3 Decreasing since March 20
Unit-4 Safe
Unit-5 Safe
Unit-6 Safe

The current status of “Water Injection”
Unit-1 Fuel Core:undergoing (seawater) Containment Vessel:confirming
Unit-2 Fuel Core:undergoing (seawater) Containment Vessel:to be determined
Unit-3 Fuel Core:undergoing (seawater) Containment Vessel:confirming
Unit-4 Fuel Core:not required Containment Vessel:not required
Unit-5 Fuel Core:not required Containment Vessel:not required
Unit-6 Fuel Core:not required Containment Vessel:not required

Although the situation at the plant is getting better there is an occurring problem with water contamination. The radiation level in Tokyo is higher than normal so there has been an official statement that infants should avoid drinking the tap water. It is still at a harmless level for the adults but it is nevertheless unnerving mostly to the fact that the mineral water from the shops started to disappear again…

Day 14 – Thursday 24th of March

My office is saving energy as everyone else so we are not using air conditioners – our only means of heat. Instead, my company bought blankets and gloves to use when working. It’s a funny picture now – you can see many guys wrapped in pink blankets with white polar bears on them. ^-^ Gloves are due to arrive any minute now, can’t wait – my fingers are freezing. But this cold cannot last much longer. It’s already 24th of March – two more weeks and the weather will change.  ^-^

Later today, it was announced that the level of radiation in tap water that was dangerous for the infants is back to normal. Nevertheless, the bottled water is all gone and I think it’s going to stay that way for a while. You can still buy 300ml pet bottles here and there but if you are thinking of using it for cooking, you’ll need a lot of those… I checked online shops, the water is sold out everywhere.. If the situation is not changed by the end of next week, I’m going to start stealing water from my office.. ^-^ Miraculously, they managed to order a lot somewhere..

Day 15 – Friday 25th of March

I have seen a couple of messages on Facebook calling people to be generous and send money to a charity. All of those messages come with a private bank account and lots of “Pray for Japan” slogans.. I just hate when people abuse the crisis situation and try to make money of it. There is one particular dude on Facebook who is collecting money for an organization that exists for:

– Charity Activity and Donation

– Social Funding for

1. Citizen investigation for helpful communication with Internet

2. Organizing effective Communication for Japanese Expatriots including their friends, Japan friends in abroad for helping the victims of 3.11 Earthquake

3. Empowerment of human tank, innovation and technology supply for humanitarian aid in generous way.

….ah….what? I am reading this but I am not understanding this…  Is this person trying to collect money to teach people how to use…Facebook?

And then, there are bunch of folks on the streets with their home made donation boxes, asking you to donate money to those unfortunate who lost everything. EVEN IF they do send those money to Red cross or Unicef, it’s still the same as logging into your bank account and sending money online. People can do so in the privacy of their own rooms or ATMs. I am telling you, those who collect money on streets are doing so for self-satisfaction. In my opinion, if you have free time at hand, do something more valuable. Money can be sent virtually, but clothes, food and toiletries can’t so instead of collecting money, they should collect items and then send them out…

Day 16 Saturday 26th of March

Yesterday, I went to a charity live that was helping accumulate funds for shelters in Miyagi prefecture. Gow and her Genez project was also participating so me and Dalrae who didn’t have a single day off these two weeks went to see her.

People are full of hope and even though there isn’t much we can do, it is important to stay positive and think for the best. ^-^

There is a collection of items for Second harvest tonight at Trump room. If anyone have new clothes, toilet paper, tissues and unopened food and water, you can bring it to the 6th floor of the club and then stay for the event free of charge.

Day 19 Tuesday 29th of March

Today, my gym started to have yoga classes again, yay! It was so crowded though. I guess after two weeks everyone was eager to return to their pre-3/11 conditions. I lost 2 kg in the first week after the earthquake but then gained 3kg the following week. Stress is a bitch… Anyway, I was in my savasana pose on the floor when I felt yet another earthquake. ^-^ Someone on Facebook said that when this is all over, they will miss the constant rocking like a retired old sailor. ^-^

8 Comments Post a comment
  1. mary hoskins #

    Hello

    I am the feature editor of a school newspaper in Lindon Utah. I feel as if I’m shooting for the stars here, but I was wondering if it might be possible for our school to get permission to use one of your photos of the Japanese Earthquake on one of our news pages. If that’s not possible is there any advice you can give me as to how I can ascertain such a photo?

    Thank you so much for your time,
    Mary Hoskins

    March 16, 2011
    • Hi Mary, sure! I’ve just sent you an email with photos.

      March 16, 2011
  2. Melissa Yap #

    Hi,

    Whats situation like in Tokyo

    1) Are all trains moving or still some trains are out of service
    2) what about food, are the supermarkets still empty?

    I am due to fly to tokyo on 4th april, & I very much not want to cancel the trip . newspapers have not been very helpful, there are just too many conflicting updates

    Thanks

    Melissa

    March 18, 2011
    • Hi Melissa, the trains are at 70% capacity but when the rationing of energy takes place, some of them stop, some go only to the major stations. If you plan to go sightseeing in Tokyo, you shouldn’t have any major problems with transportation if judging on the present situation.
      As for the food, most of the restaurants are working. Supermarkets have lots of food in the morning, by evening there are no bread, milk, rice.. But I guess you wouldn’t be cooking so it should also be OK for you. Any hotel will of course provide you with everything you need.
      There is no radiation and no panic. The situation at the energy plant is still critical but many say that even in the worst case scenario, it should be OK for Tokyo. ^-^ I hope by the time you come Tokyo will be back to normal and Japan will start recovering. If you need any other info, let me know!

      March 18, 2011
  3. RETUZZI #

    I hope everything will be OK! In Tokushima now – also visited Osaka – trip I dreamt about long ago – and managed to do it in such circumstances.

    March 18, 2011
    • We are fine here in Tokyo. ^-^ Im glad you’re having fun! Please bring me omiyage! ^-^

      March 18, 2011
  4. Nusy #

    Hello, dear!
    Glad to see you fine
    Read all about Japan
    Thanks for this page
    Miss you much
    From Russia with love
    Nusy

    March 19, 2011
  5. vvvv #

    Are you all right? It is said that there has occurred tsunami in Japan…..and Tokyo is flooded…I am a bit worried…hope you are really fine

    March 21, 2011

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