7 Years On: What March 11 Taught Me About Disaster Preparedness

When I came to Japan in 2006, I was already well aware of earthquakes. I had seen live coverage of the 1995 Kobe earthquake as a child and had later shared a house with a survivor of that disaster during university. I had heard all about them and had a pretty good idea of what it would be like when one struck.

After coming to Japan, I got used to the occasional “little” temblors that happened. So when the March 11 earthquake occurred, at first, I didn’t think much of it — even when my apartment started to sway. I didn’t live in the nicest building then, so it shook more than other quakes so far, even such at shindo (seismic intensity) 4 levels. But suddenly that usual sway turned into a great ruckus of shaking, shattering and noise.

I still vividly remember that I spent a while stuck under my TV rack/bookshelf before everything stopped moving long enough for me to get outside. When the earth stopped shaking, I went back inside, grabbed whatever important things I could find and stuffed them in a bag. When the shaking began again, I ran back outside and sat in an open field with the stray cats and other wildlife that called my neighborhood home. I stayed out there until my roommates were able to get home from their respective workplaces several hours later, thanks to all the trains having stopped.

[S]uddenly that usual sway turned into a great ruckus of shaking, shattering and noise.

My balcony had cracked and moved away from the building by about two centimeters, the built-in wooden shelf in the tatami room had broken off the wall and the bathroom door no longer closed. Not to mention all the dishes that had smashed, covering the kitchen floor.

A photo taken in Fukushima …continue reading