16 Mar 2011

A week in Yamagata


Practised primary series, oh it was lovely, had trouble focussing but shoulder felt better and was thinking I may start back on second series the next morning.

It's March, I've often travelled to India at this time of year, work is quiet, but this year for a number of reasons I decided to stay at home, relax, focus on yoga practice and generally go a little slower.

Sorry to repeat much of what I'm sure everyone is emotionally and nervously tired of watching, but I feel like writing a bit.  You don't have to read.

As we all know a magnitude 9 earthquake hit the coast of Sendai, just an hour away from here.  The fact I am writing this from home, with electricity, is because I am behind the mountains.  It was still big enough though.

First you hear the windows rattle, than feel the floor shake, jars chinking together. 

Is it going to stop...soon....what should I do....it continues, growing in strenght, stay put or go out.  Heart racing, body shaking from fear, from adrenaline.

Got out, run back in turn off the heater.  Run out.   The tarmac is almost rippling, watch the parked cars bounce and shake. Breathe, breathe very deeply, calm down, breathe, looking up seeing if power cables or concrete poles are about to fall on me.  Head to the school ground, open space, it continues, but even this space isn't comforting when the earth beneath continues to shake.  It was like snowboarding without going anywhere.  Breathe calm down, calm.

I'm in socks of course, don't have the presence of mind for shoes.  It's the joke in the neighbourhood, that English woman runs out in her socks.  Don't even feel the cold my heart is racing so fast.

Ground stops shaking. One neighbour in our group, all neighbourhoods are organised into a system of sub groups in a big group, the appointment for leader changes every year.  He checks on the oler people who live alone.  Everyone accounted for.   I see images on one of the neighbour's mobile phones of a river of cars being swept away by a river, a tidal wave.... hear a noise above, see what look like swans, cranes, white birds with long necks in v formation crying out and flying west, then I go back in the house.

No electricity.  Get out candles and lighters while it's light.  More shuddering.  Earth is still moving.  Fill up everything I can find with water, perhaps the pipes have burst.  No t.v. no net no information.  Not sure of the full extent.

Can't settle, go for a bike ride, it's snowing heavily.  All the traffic lights are out, police are directing at major crossroads, cars are back up.  Now I really appreciate all those police boxs scattered all over the city, they were in there straight away doing what they have a plan for.

All the services have a plan, these were put into action immediately, everyone knowing their place, their role, what procedure is required.  Infact 51 brave police officers lost their lives trying to get people out of the tsunami's reach.  They were the last.  They did their job.  So many hereos.

Back home, thankful for many things, think of all the police, electric workers, doctors, army, rescue all those people having one hell of a day.

A reminder of how interdependent we all are, all working for all.  Especially those in the public service.  Public service now has a much great depth to the word.

Dark night, no lights, few cars, snow falls silently, darkly.  It's peaceful.  A friend living further inland near the mountains said the tsunami came close.  Reports of 10m waves and burning oil.  BBC here in Yamamgata.

Thankfully our mobile phones mail worked, the mobile phone providers have emergency service, I could contact my friends in Tokyo and they could post on face book so assure family and friends that we were ok.  I realised later I could have done it, but with low battery, small texts were all I wanted to risk.  Need to save battery.

I feel for those huddled in schools, stranded on boats. Lucy, with baby, north of Sendai, no water, no electricity.  No life line, just a mobile phone with limited battery.

Drink wine, sew, listining to emergency radio station intensely for information. 

At night of aftershocks and sirens.

Tofu shop with one candle, and lovely ladies huddled around a stove at dusk.


  1. So glad to hear that you are OK! so terrible what's happening there. We ARE all interconnected ... the tsunami reached my shoreline too but was just the smallest, faintest echo of the one that hit poor Japan... Thanks for letting us know you safe and sound!

  2. Thank you for this, Esther! Be safe tomorrow on your trip.

  3. Dear Esther
    Thanks for updating us. It is different to read your account than seeing pictures and reading the news. That is a massive jolt. I lived through small earthquakes 4 years in San Francisco, but never something of magnitude greater than 6. They tried education of preparadness with a site called "72hours.com" but i'm not sure it had the intended effect. But the society over there is so orderly and disciplined.

  4. Glad your Safe but a bit worried about the power situation. Hearing over here that 850,000 are without electricity. Cold up there in the mountains ( even with power) hope your OK. Thank you too for the reminder too about the police, of course they would have been there trying to get everyone away, so awful. Keep thinking about these guys who are having to go into the Fukushima plant everyday to try and control it too. Just maybe I could do it once if it was my job but to get up the next day and do it again and then next and then next.... be safe エスタ

  5. Thanks guys. Yeah the guys in the nuclear plant are hereos. They are being called the Fukushima 50. We are all praying for them, hard.