Getting Out Of Dodge

(Writing in Osaka Airport – will update and complete this post as time goes on)

There are four of us now, down from twenty that left Sendai at 8:50am on Monday March 14th, three days after the earthquake and tsunami in Sendai, Japan.

Last night we stayed at the Hotel Arrowle after a 15 hour drive that took us from the city of Sendai, west to Yamagata, then all of the way to the west coast of Honshu, south to Niigata, and then stopping just outside of the town of Komatsu.

A series of earthquakes had hit the Sendai region for a few days leading up to what has been termed the “megaquake”.  For myself, it seemed that each quake successively got worse than the last one but the reality was a little different (ranging from 6.0 to 7.2).  Each time I had to adjust the tv so that it wouldn’t fall over, stand up and move into a doorway to protect myself, and then email my loved ones to let them know that I was ok.  Most of the time they did not know that there had been an earthquake as they are fairly common in Japan and it doesn’t garner any media attention.  The first one that happened on (Thursday March 6th), I was asleep in bed .  I awoke to the sun shining in my eyes, the world shaking and I stood there stark naked wondering what was I supposed to do in case of an earthquake.  I imagined the worst case scenario – pulling my naked body out of the rubble or even worse still – forced to stand naked on the street as they evacuated the building.  Fortunately something fell onto the ground and brought me back to reality when I threw on some clothes and ran down the five flights of stairs.

It takes some time for the brain to rationalize that something you take as sacrecinct – the solid ground beneath your feet – is in fact solid, but moving on its own. It doesn’t take long for you to adjust to accept this new reality, but after a while your mind starts to play tricks on you – feeling and expecting earthquakes when they aren’t there.

The next earthquake was similar in nature in that it shook the apartment (all of the doors and windows rattled) except that it was 3:30am and I was working.  My beautiful girlfriend woke up and called out my name but she was asleep within ten minutes after the quake had passed.  Between 6am and 6:30am another earthquake shook our apartment except this time it got us out of bed and preparing for the day.

Wait, perhaps I should tell you a little more background as I’m getting ahead of myself.  I was born on a hot autumn day and named Scot Thom.  Fast forward twenty-some-odd years and I find myself in a plane flying to Tokyo for the second time in a year to meet up with the love of my life at Narita Airport.  Heather teaches social sciences and english literature at Tohoku International School (TIS) in Izumi district, city of Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture.   She is in her second year of teaching at the close knit international school that has a long history in Sendai with over 100 students and a dozen teachers.

One my first trip to Sendai in October 2011, I started a blog titled “Scotch In Japan” to chronicle my experiences of life in Japan.  It took me two weeks to get settled into a daily routine of telecommuting back to Toronto each night, sleeping during the day and running in the hills that surround Sendai.  As I write now, I’m searching for different sources of information that people who are still in Sendai can use to get a more informed picture of what is happening as there is very little information flowing from the Japanese Government and the Canadian Government.

I had lugged my Xbox 360 from Toronto to Sendai and I found myself sitting on the sofa playing Fallout 3 when the apartment started to shake.  I stood up and adjusted the television once again to ensure that it wouldn’t fall over and stood there waiting for the earthquake to end.  What had started as a small tremor, quickly built into the apartment shaking violently.  I took three long strides to the nearest doorway and held on for dear life as I felt the apartment bounce up and down as the building swayed three feet to the left and then three feet to the right.  I watched the television crash onto the Xbox 360, listened to appliances (rice cooker, toaster oven, etc) fall onto the ground.  The bookshelf in the bedroom proceeded to vomit it’s contents onto the floor for over sixty seconds and then all of the glasses, plates, bowls, cups could be heard exploding in the kitchen.  I glanced at my blackberry on the kitchen table and decided against letting go of the wall to record the earthquake.  I saw the hydro lines bounce up and down through the glass sliding doors and saw dust being kicked up in the hills beyond.

I realized that the building was constructed so that it would sway a lot to dissipate the energy generated from an earthquake but I didn’t know that a building could go through that much without collapsing.  I put on a change of clothes and then another earthquake struck and it was enough for me to realize that I had to get out.  I grabbed my coat and bag and rushed down the stairs.

When my feet hit the sidewalk I was

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3 thoughts on “Getting Out Of Dodge”

  1. Sorry – I wrote the above piece while I was on the train from Komatsu to Osaka. I’m working hard at getting all of the sources of info together on the “Sendai” blog post so that foreign nationals who are still there can make an informed decision that if they are going to stay at least they are prepared for what is to come.

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