I don’t even know where to begin. Just 72 hours ago, Japan was in relative bliss, sure we have low unemployment, high debt and a slow economy, but it was just normal life. At 2:46pm, the Tohoku/Sendai Earthquake started the worst natural disaster in Japan’s history.
If any of you are concerned, fear not, as of now I am safe from the tsunamis (earthquakes and potential radiation, not so much). I definitely felt the earthquakes and its larger aftershocks, but my area got off scratch free.
On Friday, I headed into Gifu City (the capital of my Prefecture) to have a meeting with 15 or so ALTs in my prefecture. Starting on Friday, I got added “responsibilities” of being the Regional Prefectural Advisor for my area of my prefecture. In terms you will understand, in my “state”, I’m basically the advisor of my “county”.
During the meeting, we were talking about the presentation given to new ALTs in August when they first arrive. We were in the middle of the meeting and funny enough, we just finished the “When an earthquake strikes” slide. This is no joke and looking back on it, it was really funny. All of a sudden, I felt my chair shaking, I didn’t think I was moving, so I looked around and other people had the same look on their face, you know the “huh, do you feel that too?”. We all decided that once everyone felt the shaking, there really was an earthquake. It started mild and then the ground started to shake more, the only scary situation was a TV located by other ALTs that was toddling back and forth. We thought it would pass, so we just sat in our chairs. However, 30 seconds later we decided that maybe we should get under the tables or leave the building. Since we were in the Prefectural Board of Education office, there were many other workers inside and most of them were walking outside, so we did too. From what we felt, the 9.0 earthquake was about 2 minutes long and caused no harm to us. We went back inside, unaware of the ensuing damage in Northern Japan. Around 3pm, we felt the ground shake again, this time we were faster to get under the tables. Once again, just some shaking and that was it. We continued our meeting, but after a brief break, most of us were aware of what had happened. It’s hard to say what will happen since so much is still unknown. In my prefecture, all of the JET Program participants are accounted for, but that was expected. Since tens of thousands of people are still missing, the death toll will continue to rise exponentially. I’ve read reports of an entire town of 10,000 that are missing and most likely won’t be found.
Watching the news at the bar on Friday night
For now, we just sit and wait. Life in my area continues as usual. However, yesterday I bought a $60 earthquake kit and 6 liters of water, just in case. I also sleep with my bike helmet next to my bed. We’ve been warned that in the next 3 days there is a very high chance that a 7.0 earthquake will occur, but I’ve heard that it shouldn’t be centered near my area because we are on different earthquake plates. My largest fear is for the nuclear reactors and radiation. It sounds like they have it under control. The greatest fear is of the 7.0 earthquake hitting near the reactors and causing a meltdown.
It truly is amazing how fast natural disaster can spread from country to country.
UPDATE: as I was writing this blog (3:54pm) the earthquake siren went off. We were told that in 55 seconds an earthquake would hit us. Thank god other teachers knew what was going on. So the longest 55-second countdown ensued. I got under my desk and just sat there waiting for the shaking to happen. Luckily enough, it never did. It is funny how I seem to be either talking about earthquakes or writing about them and they happen.
I didn’t want this post to be so sad, but I guess you can’t change the truth. I’m very thankful that I have water, food, electricity, and shelter. Just to say it again, I’m safe and far away from the damage. I live in Gifu Prefecture, which is just above the city of Nagoya.