Earthquakes, I’ve been in so many since coming here in Japan. While on the 24th floor at Tokyo Midtown Tower it initially shook and moved the building as it normally did. Being in the ring of fire, these occurrences can seem routine. The floors, walls, and objects began to move. Usually they stopped after an endless few seconds. Today’s seemed like it lasted minutes. The building moved and swayed and things waved side to side. These were bearable but what then turns things into a terrifying manner is when the movement become vertical as opposed to lateral. The upward motions create an air of vertigo. The uneasiness builds.
Usually when these happen; I as a foreigner look at my local friends and colleauges and if they seem cool and collected things are assumed and accepted as fine. But today’s 8.9 was different. I looked at my coworkers and they were clearly in distress. Many ran out of meeting rooms, whilst many others nervously gathered their things. There’s clearly a lot of fear that can manifest being on the 24th floor during a quake. When the world around spins out of control and all that can be controlled is your own facilities to try to breathe and be calm which is nearly impossible. When I looked out of the building and saw the horizon and skyline of Tokyo move around me I accepted that this was a bad one.
I stared at the faces around me and saw reserved fear. Very Japanese and very noble. We then all in an orderly way moved to the stairwell. The descent down deeper into the base of the tilting structure drew more uneasiness as we felt and heard the creaking of the substructures. It’s hot, the oxygen level is low, and it’s crowded. With this are also an eerie moan of stressed glass and steel that gets drowned out by the klaxon like sound of alarms and messages. At some point it’s impossible not to think of death. It comes it goes but it’s silenced with hope and knowing that the exits are getting closer. Finally going into daylight I went outside. Looking up, I could see the building sweeping left and right.
There was a crowd on the sidewalks and open spaces looking up with uncertainty. It was then that a few members of the crowd turned on their mobile devices which had TVs. The news was horrific. Tidal wave, Tsunami, fires, and destruction. We heard that an entire coastal city was wiped out but a large wave. On the small screens we saw it. When the news reported the magnitude it was unbelievable. 8.9 which is the 6th largest in history. The atmosphere was heavy and the gloominess was evident but subtle. The news and events were marked in time by the physical presence of this powerful quake that could be experienced together by millions of people at once. In sync with our moments of distress were the events close by that devastated lives. While it was happening to us, it was happening worse to them.
When the quake happened, we were all together, today we all felt the same things together, and today although I’m a gaijin in Japan I feel Japanese. My heart goes out to those tonight who have been broken by this event…