The night of the Japan earthquake

Posted by in Japan | March 13, 2011

Note: two days after the 2011 earthquake in Japan I wrote a post explaining my experience and what I saw on my walk home. That post was lost after I updated the blog and discarded the old database. I see in my web server logs that I still get lots of request for the old article, so I’m posting the photos again, together with comments from what I can remember. — July 12th, 2012

These are my experiences from March 11th 2011, when a big earthquake hit Japan. I was on my lunch break at work in Ginza (central Tokyo) when the earthquake hit. After it was decided that we would close the store for the rest of the day, I walked around 20km home because there was no public transportation.

Read the comments on the photos below for a description of what I was on the way home.

More photos after the pause.

2:49pm. Earthquake hits while we’re at work. Employees and customers are instructed to get cover under the tables.

2:52pm. The buildings in Ginza empty. The streets fill with people who try to contact friends and relatives on the phone. The phone services are overloaded, so most of them can’t. Many enter the Apple Store to check the Internet for information and use the wireless network for sending email.

7:59pm. I’m going home. Some customers remain in the Apple Store theater. All workshops are of course canceled, and the screen is showing real-time Internet streams of news sources.

8:39pm. Very long line of people waiting to take a taxi in front of the Bic Camera department store in front of Yurakucho station.

8:42pm. Many people take shelter in the Tokyo International Forum building. For many, walking back home is not an option, and they can only wait until public transportation is restored.

8:48pm. Very, very long lines of people waiting at the bus stops hoping they will be able to take a bus home.

8:48pm. Very, very long lines of people waiting at the bus stops hoping they will be able to take a bus home.

8:51pm. In front of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. The roads are full of vehicles. Traffic can’t move. It’s faster to just walk. notice the truck in the middle of the photo carrying three big pieces of curved concrete. We’ll see him again.

8:56pm. Traffic jams in front of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Looking towards the Hibiya area.

8:56pm. Traffic jams in front of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. Looking towards the Palace gardens.

9:05pm. Near Kudanshita station. Traffic is completely still. I think that many people must have spent as much time inside their cars as I spent walking.

9:13pm. Police station near Jinbocho. Police are giving instructions on the loudspeaker and giving directions to shelters to the people walking by.

9:54pm. Somewhere between Kasuga and Sugamo. The roads are completely packed and traffic doesn’t move.

10:06pm. Not far from the Sugamo station. We saw this same truck before at 8:51pm near the Imperial Palace. Looks like traffic is moving at around the same speed as me walking.

10:10pm. Reached the Sugamo station. This is more or less half-way home for me.

10:15pm. A group of volunteers is distributing warm soup to people walking by. They offer me some when they see me taking photos. Thanks!

10:34pm. Roads leading out from Tokyo are completely packed with vehicles. Here we see an ambulance stuck in traffic. The speedways overhead have emptied. They can’t be used when there’s a big earthquake.

From this point I stopped taking photos for two reasons:

  • My iPhone was running out of battery.
  • Everything from this point was just more of the same. No point in taking more photos of the same roads full of vehicles.

It took me three hours and a half to walk home. I walked almost 20km. During the whole time I was tracking my steps with RunKeeper. See the whole activity by following this link.


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