The Big One Finally Hit

It finally happened. The big one hit. Somewhere around magnitude 8.8 (Update: final magnitude calculations concluded at magnitude 9) at the epicenter up in Miyagi prefecture several hundred kilometers north of the metropolis. Here in Tokyo the magnitude was a weaker, but nevertheless a serious earthquake. Apparently, it was the strongest earthquake in Japan's recent recorded history, and the fifth largest earthquake globally in recent history. To what extent these figure are exact or accurate, I do not know.

As I write this at around 11:00 pm, Friday March 11th, 2011, we are still experiencing aftershocks in frequent intervals (Update: According to a Nikkei headline we will be experiencing aftershocks well over a month. Additionally, I have heard talk from people in the Chuuestsu region saying that they experienced aftershocks for up to a year after their fatal quake in 2004). I'm also a bit shaken up (no pun intended) from the events that transpired today.

Tokyo has literally grinded to a halt. All JR train lines have suspended operations. Highway are at a standstill. Buses are being crammed with people trying to at least begin to head in the general directions of their homes. Several subway lines have resumed operations, but the situation will be dire at best, as masses of people will attempt to squeeze their way in making the usual rush hour commute seem like a luxury limo ride with champagne service and stripper HJs.

I'm not really able to focus too well while watching the devastation in northern Japan unfold on TV and the Internet, so this entry, which happens to be the first one in a long while (as well as the first of 2011 for Anaba: Happy New Years?), may not be as well written as I desire. However, I want to share my experience today, as insignificant as it may be in the grand scheme of today's disaster.

Around 2:45 pm this afternoon I was fumbling through some code at my day job when the earthquake struck. Now, at first it just seemed to be a regular quake. We had a decent one earlier this week that lasted a minute, but all in all it wasn't really shit to raise any alarm. Anyway, about a minute of gentle swaying suddenly gets exponentially stronger. My 30 to 40 year old 4 story office building starts to bounce amidst the swaying. The blinds start smacking against the window sills, hard. Monitors start toppling, and we hold onto whatever electronics we can grab while halfway begin to duck for cover under the big work table.

It felt like an eternity. It was probably about 3 minutes, realistically, maybe less. Magnitude. Mother. Fucking. 8.8. (M9 now, breh). All of us in the office quickly gathered all of our stuff, put the monitors and desktop PCs flat on the ground, as well as some other items that would be prone to toppling in the aftershocks, and leave after the initial quake.

As soon as we made it out of the building we were greeted by a massive crowd of evacuees in the neighboring offices. After a few minutes of chatting with the neighbors, we decided today's work was pretty much done and dispersed to are respective destinations.

From my office in the Hanzomon/Kojimachi area by the Imperial Palace I started to walk home to Koenji via Shinjuku-dori. Right when I reached Yotsuya station the first aftershock hit. I noticed how intense it was when I started to walk across the bridge crossing the tracks and the bridge started shaking. I decided to back track a few steps to avoid a potential collapse and turned around to witness the surrounding building swaying about gently like grass in a windy field.

Immediately following the aftershock I proceeded across the bridge to a major intersection. As I was constantly looking around, 360 degrees, to make sure debris wouldn't come crashing on my head, I noticed plumes of black smoke off in the distance toward what I think was Shibuya.

I continued on Shinjuku-dori toward Shinjuku and noticed in the sky jumbo jets and other passenger jets flying over the skyscraper district; a rare site as most of the city is a no-fly zone. However, the current circumstances had pretty much rendered the airports inactive. Flights were being looped and diverted.

The rest of the way home was surreal. The streets were packed with people heading somewhere, most likely home or a friend's place. Zombies wandering aimlessly came to mind.

It was a brisk day with strong gusts of wind every so often, and a bit of a piddling rain for about 20 minutes at one point.

The streets were jammed with cars going nowhere. Apparently, it was nearly impossible to hail a cab, and the line up for buses went on for blocks.

The noises of the city were dominated by sirens blaring everywhere; cops, firefighters, gas-works response teams, and ambulances. The hubbub of worried citizens layered by the sound of radios, TVs and 1segs broadcasting emergency reports were filtered by the gusts on wind. Once I got near the tracks of the Chuo-line it became eerily silent. I'll say it again: Surreal.

When I finally made it home I wasn't surprised to find some of my electronics on the ground. I haven't even got around to checking to see if they were broken or not. At least I know now  for sure that my desktop is in order, as I spent the following several hours watching and reading reports online, contacting people via Facebook and Twitter, and shitting the proverbial brick about whether my good friend and TokyoAnaba contributor, globalimagination, who lives up in Fukushima (a.k.a. Tsunami country), wasn't engulfed in the brutal Pacific tide. He's okay by the way.

At one point my friend David who lives nearby stopped by and we set off to grab a few supplies. On the way back we saw some debris that had fallen off a Showa-era edifice. Check the photos below.

I'm exhausted, so I apologize if this post is written poorly, if there are errors, blah blah blah. Tired and ready to sleep, as long as the aftershocks don't keep me up all night. Burn the midnight oil, I suppose. Doing what, who knows?

The TV was originally on the floor, but the it was propping the doors against the wall, originally. The force of the earthquake had moved the doors and TV out about 2 feet.

A couple of my laptops, drum machine and midi controller along with some other  detritus littered about in my study cum bed (futon) room.

Fallen debris from an old building in Koenji.

Where the debris had been pre-quake.

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