Magazine article The Spectator

Tokyo Waits

Magazine article The Spectator

Tokyo Waits

Article excerpt

A strange calm followed Friday's earthquake

It is eerily quiet this evening. I hear no traffic, no wind, not even the birds.

It's hard to believe that Tokyo has been in a state of emergency for four days, following earthquake, tsunami and radioactive leaks.

I was at home alone on Friday at 2.45 p. m. , in a quiet residential area of Tokyo. Wh en the house started shaking I ran out onto the street. I could see only two other people.

They disappeared before I had a chance to talk to them, so I too went back inside. Bottles had fallen off shelves, coffee was splattered across the hob, the contents of one bookshelf lay strewn across the floor.

I knew it wasn't yet over from the ongoing tremors. So I started to pack an evacuation kit of laptop, passport, and a few treasured possessions. Then came another big shake. I went out onto my doorstep and this time saw my neighbour at her door. She was packing more sensible things such as bottled water, canned food, sleeping bags. She said she was scared.

She told me she had never experienced anything like this. She said if it happened again, we should either get into a narrow place like the toilet, or go to an open space outdoors.

But: ' wakaranai ' ('don't know').

For the next five hours I alternated between checking the internet, adding to my evacuation kit, and running to the doorstep when the tremors got bad. Mobile phone lines were mostly down but I managed one brief conversation with Kentaro, my husband.

Meanwhile, the sound of the construction workers drilling away in between tremors was strangely reassuring.

At 9 p. m. I got a call from Kentaro saying he had walked for two hours and was nearly home. We arranged to meet at the local supermarket. This was the first time I had ventured out since the earthquake. The main road looked like a moving walkway, dense with people making their way home on foot. In the supermarket checkout queue there was no story-swapping, no tears, not even nervous laughter.

The next day was business as usual. Three of my neighbours had washed and hung their laundry by the time I got up. The public transport network was largely functioning, despite the ongoing tremors. Kentaro was one of the many who went to work. I stayed at home and watched in horror as the images of the tsunami and earthquake came through. …

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