top of page
  • Writer's picturegordonjcampbell

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

Today mark’s the 11th Anniversary of the Great Tohoku Earthquake in Japan. It started with the quake, was followed by a devastating tsunami, and caught the world's attention when the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant suffered a meltdown and began leaking radiation.

The Tohoku region is located in the Northeast portion of Japan's main island of Honshu. Unfortunately, the recovery for Tohoku has been slow, and for the poor people of the region, the nightmare continues.

Japan has spent an estimated 325 billion dollars to boost the region's infrastructure, yet Tohoku struggles economically and is over-shadowed by the fears of radioactive contamination.

My family lived through the earthquake and reacted to the domino effect it created throughout Japan. My experiences were published on my blog soon after the event. I'm humbly sharing it once again as collective memories drift back to March 11th, 2011.

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 floors. We are seasoned veterans of more minor quakes in Asia & (one staff member slept thru the devastating Earth Quake in LA).

Our building shook, swayed, and seemed to bounce for several minutes. It was beyond anyone's expectations. Yet, no severe damage; our television needed repositioning, small items, including free-standing photos, fell, drawers popped open, and books fell off shelves. Easy clean up without broom & dustpan.

-Technology Failure: Phone communication was near impossible soon after the quake, but the email went thru to the destination. Landlines 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 a staircase. She called us from a payphone & 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-shocked 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 stared into space and seemed to see nothing. They are people experienced with Natural Catastrophe, fearful but resided to their fate and ready to carry on with life's responsibilities. The teachers & exceptional

caregivers would spend the night 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 significant highways, subway, and train lines closed from the Quake on Friday until Saturday Morning.

People had to taxi, drive, bus, or walk home. Roads and sidewalks were jammed.

It was the most extended Parking Lot in the world: (I picked up my wife in Roppongi, a Center of Downtown Tokyo. This trip is usually 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 the standard on 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 fortunate 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.")

There were an 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 the Capital City stands firm for the most part. 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 loudspeaker announcements of possible water & electricity shortages. The 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, and it's sincerely appreciated.

48 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page