Tohoku (Tokyo) Earthquake – A Lesson in Humility Friday, March 11th 2011

When the Quake struck Tokyo late Friday Afternoon my family was spread out around the Greater City. My daughter was studying in after school care, my wife Interpreting on the 8th Floor of Prince Park Hotel near Tokyo Tower & I was at my desk at our Kawasaki Office. Connecting to bring everyone home was challenging but it finished well. (We are doing better than Tsunami Battered People in Northern Honshu.) Following are actions and observations making up our family’s Surreal Day:

-Quite a Shake: Our three story home/office building resembles thin houses more common to Amsterdam than Kawasaki. (It moves with strong winds.) Our Consulting Team is spread throughout the first and second floor. We are seasoned veterans of smaller quakes in Asia & (one staff member slept thru the devastating Earth Quake in LA). Our building shook, bent and seemed to bounce for several minutes. It was beyond anyone’s expectations. Yet, no serious damage; our television needed repositioning, small items including free standing photos fell, drawers popped open and books fell of shelves. Easy clean up without broom & dust pan.

-Technology Failure: Phone communication was near impossible soon after the quake but email went thru to destination. Land lines worked better than Cell Phones and Internet Based Phones failed in places such as Miura (In Law’s Home) when electricity was cut off. My wife’s meeting terminated and everyone was evacuated to the Parking Lot via staircase. She called us from a pay phone & emailed from her BlackBerry.

-Community Support: My daughter’s school gathered children to the soccer field. I could hear their adrenaline charged chatter from a Kilometer away. Our daughter had been sick to her stomach and remained scared as we walked thru the shell shock neighborhood on our return home. The eyes of our neighbors standing in the streets, sitting in front of their homes and businesses, and the teachers at the Elementary School were different. A people experienced with Natural Catastrophe, fearful but resided to their fate and ready to carry on with life’s responsibilities. The teachers & special care givers would spend the night at the school with children whose parents could not return home.

-Above & Beyond: Our Evening Care Lady hired thru the “Sliver Center” peddled her bike to our place minutes after the quake. She entered the home obviously stressed by the entire experience but immediately started work by taking my daughter to her desk to review homework. She stayed the night allowing me to pick up my wife sparing concern for “Mom’s” comfort & safety.

-Transportation Stops: Safety protocol determines closure and reinitiating of public transportation. Most major highways, subway and train lines closed from time of the Quake n Friday until Saturday Morning. People had to taxi, drive, bus or walk home. Roads and side-walks were jammed.

-Longest Parking Lot in the World: (I picked up my wife in Roppongi, a Center of Downtown Tokyo. This trip is normally a two hour journey. It rounded out to 10 Hours.) We were warm, safe and in the company of thousands of other drivers. Most drivers were courteous which isn’t always common to Japanese Road Ways. Many of us slipped the gear to Park and slept in short durations- waking slightly refreshed to move back into place in the vehicle line up.

-Long Walk: Unfortunate Evacuees (refugees) from Downtown Offices walked home, stayed in Coffee Shops, Restaurants, Public Buildings and very lucky ones found Hotel Rooms. Government Buildings opened to Public and Private Businesses showed compassion and support for the unfortunate people stranded. (The Roppongi Grand Hyatt put out chairs and offered bottled water to comfort anyone in their Lobby. Starbucks extended hours to accommodate stranded Tokyo Compatriots and some Izakaya became “one off bed and breakfast.”) Estimated 90,000 People stranded as of 3 a.m. Saturday Morning. (My wife wonders how they project such a statistic.)

-Tokyo is still standing: Not without damage; we witnessed fires and plenty of fire fighting vehicles on the return trip from Downtown Tokyo. There will be costs of repair and extended inconvenience but for the most part the Capital City stands strong. Let’s Pray and hope the People in Sendai and Miyagi get relief and luck changes in their favor.

-Life Goes On: It’s Saturday Morning & The kids are playing soccer in the little park next door. Garbage will be picked up by the City of Kawasaki as promised. The trains are back in service and we’ll soon be back at business as usual. But then again; (We awoke this "day after" to loud speaker announcements of possible water & electricity shortages.) Fun Continues.

-Over Whelming Support: Many thanks to family and friends who've sent well wishes. We are not alone in this World. You people make the difference. It's sincerely appreciated.


  1. Was glad to hear you and your family were safe.
    Jeannine sent us the link to your blog.

    A blast form the past....and the old neighbourhood

    Keep well and safe,

    Chris (Lehmann) Thompson

  2. Hi Gord, glad to hear you are ok, we have been thinking about you.

    Stay safe and hope things improve soon.

    Bill and Linda Turner