Japanese Prayer Wall

Japanese Prayer Wall

Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan's Earthquake and Tsunami

Yesterday afternoon the movers came to pick up my boxes and suitcases for my move to Kumamoto.  I was so impressed by the efficiency and warm customer service that I see time and time again in Japan.  Cindy helped with translating and keeping us organized, so we quickly finished.

Then, Cindy, Allyson, Ally, and I decided to visit a local restaurant.  We made it about a block away from home when the earthquake started at 2:46 p.m.  The four of us stopped in place as residents nearby left their homes to stand away from possible falling structures.  The power lines above us shook, so we backed away from the electric pole next to us.  The shaking continued for about two minutes while we huddled together in groups.  People commented on how strong the earthquake felt and how they’d never felt anything quite like it.  Actually, Japan has never had an earthquake this strong in recorded history.  As the shaking slowed down, the aftershocks continued off and on, and it was like we had just left a ship but couldn’t quite get our landlegs back.  We parted from neighbors with comments of “take care” and continued to the restaurant.  While there, rather large aftershocks continued, so everyone sought shelter under tables.  The restaurants could only sell limited items since it wasn’t safe to use the gas so soon after a big earthquake, but most people there seemed relieved to have friends or family nearby and didn’t care.  At this point we had no idea about the tsunami or the magnitude of destruction that it left in its path.  Meanwhile, the trains all over Tokyo stopped running so that thorough inspections could be done to ensure everyone’s safety. The trains, subways, and bullet trains throughout the eastern side of Honshu remained stationary for the remainder of the day, leaving millions of people stranded at work or school overnight.   

It wasn’t until I returned home and turned on the news that I started to understand the damage that the earthquake and tsunami did.  Hundreds of people lost their lives, and that number continues to grow.  Many were injured, lost their homes, or were without power on a cold night.  It’s hard to turn away from the images on the news, even though about the only Japanese word that I can understand in the reports is じしん (jishin, meaning earthquake). 

Because the movers had taken away almost everything, I didn’t even have cooking supplies or eating utensils, let alone food in the refrigerator.  Cindy, Allyson, Ally, and I ventured out to a nearby grocery store only to find the lights off and the doors closed.  The clerk at the 7-11 next door told us that the merchandise fell off the shelves during the earthquake, so the store was forced to close.  The shelves at 7-11 were pretty bare, but we managed to stock up on some water and cups of noodle.

Ally, Allyson, and Cindy at the nearly empty convenience store.

Throughout the night the tremors continued off and on, but I feel guilty even mentioning my lack of sleep when I think about all the people who are struggling with much bigger problems right now.  Especially for those communities closest to the tsunami, the challenges are just beginning.  While other people may return to their normal lives, they face the loss of friends and family, homes, and all their possessions.  My heart and prayers go out to the people of Japan right now who are in the midst of this turmoil and tragedy.  Please pray for them not only today, but in the weeks and months ahead as they try to rebuild their lives.

Picture of the tsunami taken from the Associated Press website


  1. I'm glad you're ok Christine. Thank you for sharing your story. You and the rest.of Japan's residents are in my prayers!

  2. Now the death toll is over a thousand with more expected. It's just so sad.

  3. I just checked The Daily Yomiyuri newspaper, and here are the current statistics.

    14,517 were killed. 11,432 are still missing. 5,314 more were injured.