March 11

Well no need to explain what happened at 14:46, but I wasn’t in the office. Just like 7/7 2005 (I was taking a sickie that day). This time, I was working, just having a late lunch in the area of Kanda close to my office. I was with Mieko and we were in a nice French restaurant when the quake struck. As usual, you ignore it at first, then as it gets bigger, everyone looks around at each other. No-one moved, but I knew this was bigger than anything that I had experienced before, and I was in an older building, so I got up and moved to the street. Outside it was chaos, people running and screaming in various directions, and women crying huddled together pointing at the swinging telegraph poles and noisy creaking buildings. By now Mieko was behind me and I suggested that we run to a more open space, she grabbed my hand and we ran through the mayhem, it was just like a Tom Cruise movie, running from danger but unsure where the destination was. We arrived at a main road that seemed to be wide enough to avoid debris should it come to that, and there we waited for 10 minutes until things died down, I tried to call Shoko but could not get through. We went back to the restaurant, paid for our food and started walking back to the office.

We arrive outside the office (20storey building) and there is a crowd of colleagues outside, many wearing the white helmets issued by the company, others donning the aluminum jackets that are also included in the earthquake kit (that we all have underneath our desks). We exchanged some banter and discussed going back into the building, some people were talking about massive cracks that they had seen in the stairwells, I wasn’t too keen to go back inside.

Then, a massive aftershock strikes, we are stood in a plaza surrounded by skyscrapers, that are really swaying. One has a few cranes on the top that are just flapping in the wind, if anyone is inside those cranes, they must be bricking it. The lower building to my right is visibly shaking from side to side as if it were alive and its making a racket. At this point, a few people state that they are going to head to the Imperial Palace – which was the evac point for my last company too, so I knew it’s probably the safest open space in Tokyo. As we are walking out, I decide to record some of the mayhem on my phone, I start running ahead to catch the scene, but that starts everyone else, and soon like wildebeest in the Mara, everyone is running – which made my footage even better 

Once at the Palace, there were many people congregating, the traffic was at a standstill, and there were lots of sirens wailing as police, fire and ambulance drove past. I bumped into Bacon and a few other UBS people, aswell as many of my own colleagues. I tried calling Shoko many times, tried sending an ‘I am ok mail’ to my family but nothing was going through – just like London on NYE.

I received several ‘Safety Confirmation’ mails from work, they are auto-generated but don’t seem to be acknowledging my safe status. After chilling at the palace I decided that I wasn’t going to go back into the office building, so I headed home on foot. The roads were packed with thousands of others doing the same thing, everyone walking home as the metro was down. I walked past bus stops with queues hundreds of meters long, thankfully my house was only a 90minute walk – I was lucky. I stopped by at Taka’s (hairdresser) on my way home and exchanged stories with him. I was home shortly later and was relieved to find Shoko safe. The news mentioned a few casualties, but we had no idea about the devastation that had been caused in Tohoku.