This is a report restricted to Kanto area. I was in the office in the heart of Tokyo, and probably because the building was old, I felt strong swaying horizontally. (It was not a vertical shake. ) It might be a bit misleading to call it “severe” but, I have never experienced being in a building moving sideways in such strong motions, despite that my office was in the lower level. After I evacuated to the park, there came another shake which sent cold shiver down my spine as I heard the surrounding buildings making strange squeaky noises and deforming into parallelogram shape. I went back home on foot. Privately owned stores and those selling non-daily necessities were closed. But fast-food restaurants and convenient stores were opened and seem as usual, except that there were more customers. Just about how crowded it gets during lunch time. We can call it a turmoil with everyone wondering how to get home faced by severe traffic congestion and paralyzed railroad system, but my personal view is that this earthquake is not that devastating, and Kanto area will be back to normal by Monday if there aren't any more earthquakes. To my surprise, everyone around me remained calm, probably being used to having earthquakes.#1916274
This is another report from metropolitan area in Tokyo. My observation and impression of the situation is exactly the same. Once the aftershock subsided, all the urban functions were back on operation except the railroad system, which made me think “Wow, that's just what Japan is about!” There were just few things that were not normal: the room was submerged by busted plumbing and the streets were overcrowded with people. (#1916333)
Right after stricken by the earthquake, infrastructures and transportation facilities stopped operating, and it became the biggest problem even in the non-victimized area. Most of the people working in Tokyo take about 30minutes to hour-and-a-half to commute to their offices from their residences not only in Tokyo but also in Saitama, Chiba, and Kanagawa using railroad transportation system. Although few of the railway lines got back to operation, many people were left with options to either spend the night in institutions such as schools and concert halls or walk back home which would take several hours.
With determination, I walked back home from Hachioji area to Nerima. On the way, I purchased a recycled bicycle at a bicycle shop. Now at 23:23, I'm home. It took me 5 hours. (#1916403)
Struck by the earthquake around 3pm while I was riding the Yokohama-line. Passengers were guided to walk to the close-by station and it was already 4:00pm. After that, we were left on our own to go wherever. I walked for 5 stations, and it took me 4 hours to get back to the office. (#1916480)
However on the next day of the earthquake disaster, most of the transportation facilities were operating and at present, most of the railway lines are running under special emergency timetable. Now, most attention goes to the power problem and the critical status of the nuclear power plants. By the devastating earthquake, some of the thermal and nuclear power plants in the Kanto and other eastern areas were shut down. The cooling system failed at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and despite the attempts to cool down the reactor externally, the situation is yet not contained. Meanwhile (although it is still not at a level of casting imminent hazard upon the residents and the environments of the surrounding area), disperse of the radioactive substances was announced causing anxiety to grow among those mainly in the Kanto area (Fushikusha Diichi Nuclear Power Plant status, CRITICAL). As to the nuclear plant related issues, news papers and TV have provided inaccurate information to stir up confusion, but it was Dr.Hayano, a professor at Tokyo University and a researcher at CERN, whose accurate explanation on the situation provided through Twitter eased the anxiety of many people(@hayano). Shut down of the power plants attributes to the power shortage problem. The attempt to decrease the power consumption by dividing the region of coverage to cut down power alternately, which is called the “planned power outage”, was implemented for the fist time(TEPCO carried out rolling outage). There were confusions as the announcement was delayed to inform which of the region was to go out of power in what time. However, websites such as “”Operation Yashima ” (the power conservation strategy depicted in the popular Japan Anime “Next Generation of Evangelion”) spread out the idea of power conservation and helped to keep the rolling blackout to a minimum. Also, daily commodities and fuel shortage is a problem. Water, bread, and preserved foods were soon gone from the stores, and gasoline and kerosene are also under-supply. Devastating news drove panicked people to buy excessive amount of toilet paper, batteries, and flashlights which became a problem. Slashdot Japan has posted a story Why do people panic buy toilet paper? which received much attention.
On my way back home, I stopped by a drug store to buy daily necessities. But all the toilet paper which is usually stacked under the banner was totally gone. There are some twitters saying that it reminds them of the Showa oil shock, but as I didn't experience that on real time, I have no clue. If anyone knows why there are people who would go out and panic buy, please let me know undercover.
Yesterday 3/15, I was in Hokkaido (island located at the north end of Japan), and just before I was about to fly back to Tokyo, my sister gave me a hasty phone call to bring back diapers for her baby. She told me her baby was wearing her last diaper, and all the diapers were emptied from the shelves of all the retail stores she could go to. Luckily, Hokkaido was not affected by the earthquake, and daily commodities were still on shelves as usual. So I brought her back a huge stack of diapers, two loaves of bread, 4 packs of ramen-noodles, cookies, and batteries. These panics are expected to wane by this weekend. Contrary to these hysterical panics, some raise their voices to say “Especially at a time like this, we should live as we usually do”. Some intellects and celebrities were calling on to “those who were affected only slightly by the disaster” to “go out and continue to consume for the sake of reducing the impact on the economy”. But they were criticized for “lacking in prudence”, drawing much attention (In a crisis like this, is it indiscreet not to practice “self-regulation”?)