Tag Archives: japan

Biggest Earthquake in Japan’s Recorded History

And it coincides with my last day teaching in Japan. … Well, it will definitely be a day I will never forget.

Thankfully, I live at least 150 miles south of the epicenter and there were no worries about the tsunami reaching this far inland.

We didn’t escape completely unscathed, however.

After a really hard final day at Oya Higashi Elementary I was not looking forward to this final Friday at Samukawa.  (I hate goodbyes!)   I went to bed the night before feeling very…. depressed.  The next day started off fairly well though.

I had woken up to the feeling of my bed gently shaking.  This was practically the third day in a row that I had felt the  tremors.  I saw that my mother was online on Skype so I called home for a bit of a pick-me-up.  After talking with her I felt much better about things.  (I needed a reminder of why I was leaving!)  I headed to school with the intention to make my last day the best one ever.  ああ、それでもちょっと寂しかった。。。Thankfully it wasn’t as hard as the previous day. This was a school I only visited once a week as opposed to the other four days at Oya Higashi.  Still, I was sad to say goodbye.  I had 2 years of memories stored there.  I was not looking forward to the final goodbye…

Little did I expect that during 5th period with one of my favorite classes that I would experience the strongest earthquake to hit the area in recorded history!  The earthquake started out as a tremor.  At first the main teacher and I just looked at each other and he asked me, “Is that an earthquake?”   I looked at the students.  They may have been excited for their game of “Old Maid/Old Man”… but I didn’t think they could cause that kind of shaking!  So I said “I think so.”    It started to get a little stronger  so I kind of crouched down.  By then the students were finally noticing.  Four of the 6th graders from the neighboring classroom ran into our room and  were yelling excitedly… something I didn’t catch the meaning of.  The earth started to move in earnest then.  Again the teacher looked to me and asked “Should we evacuate?”  … puzzled as to why he was asking me I nodded my head and said, “Yeah, let’s go!”  The students didn’t need any further prompting.  We ran down the stairs from the third floor and flew out the emergency exit.  In fact, just as we were exiting the vice principal announced over the  P.A. system that everyone should remain in their classrooms and get under their desks since it was getting too strong to try running anymore.

I didn’t really notice the movement of the ground since my feet were barely touching the ground as I bounded with the others for the safety of the open school yard.  Once we made it, though, we decided it would be wiser to sit.  It felt like trying to stand on speeding train.  Doable, but difficult.  The kids were a bit worried but otherwise they were very excited. We could see the swaying of the topmost parts of the building and the flag pole.  Behind us the swimming pool was sloshing over.   Several kids became worried about their houses, families and pets.  I did my best to assure them that everything would be okay.  Where we were it felt like a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake.  (Which I confirmed later on once I was able to connect to the internet.)  After the initial shocks wore off,  a few minutes later. the younger kids who had still been in the building joined us on the field. Then things got really noisy!

It took a bit, but we got the the excited chatter of the younger kids under control.  The school principal told us that  there were very likely to be aftershocks… and the old school building was still moving… so we would be waiting outside until we heard further news.  Several minutes passed and we could still fell small tremors.  The head honchos decided to wait a little bit longer, which turned out to be the right choice because just as the principal was announcing this another earthquake hit.  This time the epicenter was much closer, due east of us  off the coast of Ibaraki Prefecture (…only slightly weaker for us than the first.)

We all huddled together in the brisk late-winter wind.  The 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders all took turns stealing me away to be their own personal heater.  Thankfully I am naturally very warm-blooded!  The teachers decided to brave the building to bring coats out to the children.  The sky looked like it was going to rain.  Of course, me being the brilliant person I am, I didn’t bring a coat to work!  The kids then decided to shield me from the wind.  Kyaaa!  So sweet!

After waiting for what seemed like at least half an hour, it was decided that school would be cancelled for the day.  And everyone was to leave with just what they had on them.  They would have to return on Monday to retrieve their bags.  Oh darn!  No homework!  The children were crushed!  LOL!  … and then it was time for me to say goodbye.  And I saw them off gladly.  It will seriously be a day I will never forget!

While we still had power out in the Samukawa area, the main part of the city was dark.  Driving home on Route 50 was a pill.  A drive that normally takes me 15 minutes took me at least 50 minutes.  There were no functioning stoplights the entire way. Once I made it into my apartment it was pitch dark.  That is when the real magnitude of what had happened hit me.  My things were strewn everywhere.  My iMac took a hit.  Thankfully it is just superficial.  Apparently it  fell off the desk backwards and my iPod speaker dock clipped the upper right hand corner and cracked the glass panel as it fell.  But the damage was not so great as to interfere with the main screen.  There is also a dent at the bottom. Seems to be working fine though, thankfully!

I found my emergency candles since the only “flashlight” I own is a book light… (-_-;)  After I got my bed situated I began to try contacting people.  Obviously, the communications systems were either down or congested.  It wasn’t until much later that I was able to send a text message to my facebook account to let everyone know that I was safe and sound.  …a bit freaked by the continuous aftershocks!.. but otherwise good.

Since there was no power I decided to hook my phone up to my laptop and leech off of it’s battery to watch TV.  (My cell also has a TV capabilities. Yay for technology!)  And that is when I saw the damage in Sendai.  And I thanked my lucky stars that I lived so far inland in a relatively safe area.  Still, I got very little sleep that night.  Every time I fell asleep another aftershock would jolt me awake.  The aftershocks continue even now, over 24 hours later.  I have kind of gotten used to the sense of nausea.  Maybe I have finally gained my “sea legs!”  At around 2am we got our power back and I started posting my status on Facebook.  Then my dad called and I assured him I was okay…and then my sister called.  They passed the word along to the rest of the family.  I finally went to bed at around 4am and got a few hours of sleep despite the shaking.

Thankfully, in the morning they also got the gas and water going again.  Communication was still a little sketchy via cellphone but somehow people were able to get in touch with me and through me with others so that worked out well… they also  got the nearby grocery store up and running. Me and my neighbor were able to go stock up on bottled water and non-perishables, just in case they have to shut off the power again.  (The electricity company has asked for us to use as little as possible tonight… I don’t think my computer will be too much of a burden!)


Ni-sen…nantoka…onee-san (or; the 2 thousand …something?… older sister)

This week at school I got to meet and talk to two of the cutest roly-poly little twin sisters I have ever seen!  They are two of the new 1st graders.  I haven’t gotten the opportunity to teach first grade yet this year but they also attend the “special” class near the teachers’ room…probably because they have major A.D.D!  Their attentions spans are really short…even for 6-year-olds!  I really feel for their parents!  Hopefully they have a lot of help at home because they are quite the handful!  (^o^)

I was coming down the stairs from lunch with the 3rd graders when I first met them.  They were standing with their teachers near the teacher’s room and they were showing off for them when one of the girls saw me.  She came straight up to me and said “Dare desu ka?” (Who are you?)  I laughed because she was just too cute and told her my name.  Then she said something to her sister along the lines of “Look!  She looks like the 2 thousand (something I didn’t understand) big sister!” (Children often call older kids and teenagers “big sister” or “big brother” … technically I should be called oba-chan (auntie)).  I have no idea who they were referring too…and the other teachers were surprised and didn’t seem to understand who or why either.  Maybe it was in reference to my weight. (-_-)  Here in Japan I have to shop in the Plus-size section even though back home I wear a size 12. LOL!

Anywho!  They were completely adorable!  They dragged me around and then told be to come to the Tanpopo room with them (Dandelion Room).  I followed along and they started riding the rolling white boards around the room.  Their teacher seemed fine with it!  That was the first time I had spent recess-time indoors!

The next day as I came down from lunch with another 3rd grade class I met some teachers at the foot of the stairs.  They asked me if I could hold on for just a bit since the girls were coming with the “grandpa” (their nick-name for the school groundskeeper.)  Sure enough they rounded the corner with the “grandpa” in tow.  Then they traded off and grabbed me again and had me follow them to the special education classroom.  This time I drew some pictures for them on the whiteboards… and I got pwn’d!  At 6-years-old they are already better artists than I was at 10 or 11!  (Granted I didn’t really start drawing until junior high…) But for 6-year-olds their hand-eye coordination is awesome!  One girl’s favorite thing to draw was Doraemon. She draws him very well!

Unfortunately they only had one marker!  Which meant I had to swipe it while they weren’t looking to avert any more arguing.  This is also where their ADD came in handy because all I had to do was distract them into doing something else…not difficult at all to do with those inclined to being distracted!  Distraction is a handy tool I learned while taking care of very young children at church during Sunday School!


I am completely in denial.  I know in my head that I will soon be heading back to Japan but the rest of me has yet to buy a clue.  I have exactly three weeks left in the good ol’ U.S. of A.  It hasn’t sunk in yet.  I am just hoping that I will be able to keep my spending under control so I will actually have something to live off of for the first couple of months. 

Wow, I am actually going back to Japan.  It seems surreal for some reason.  Part of me really wishes to remain home, close to family.  But the other part points out that there is not much of a job market for my particular skills.  It has even occurred to me that instead of continuing my studies in Art History that I could just as easily take my friend’s advice and study law.   I do seem to have a knack for it and the LSAT test is in all my strong points.  (I would be S.O.L. if it had any math!)   But then, the fees for schooling alone could put me under for decades…hmm.  Maybe I can find some feasible job where Japanese as a second language would come in handy…of course, this all depends on my ability to actually learn the language in the year to come.  (-_-;;)

On a brighter note, once I get home I fully intend to take my mother on vacation to New York City.  My mother has never had the opportunity to really travel.  (I would love to bring her to Japan but if I bring one I have to bring them all…that job doesn’t pay that well).  Ultimately I want to go with her to Europe too.  She is an art hound like me, taught me everything I know actually, so I know she would actually appreciate the experience…i.e. all of the museums and the like that we would go to.   While in Japan I am also going to get in as much travel as I can (c’mon, you are only young and single once).  There are actually some pretty good deals to neighboring countries from Japan.  I have a couple breaks including a nearly-full summer vacation in August….well, as usual, we shall see how things turn out.

For now, however, I am preparing for a baby shower (Heather’s son Ananias, so cute!) and my niece Sammi’s first birthday.  (I am majorly obsessed with my gorgeous niece).  Lots of baby stuff happening.  After that it will be the psycho-hectic week of St. Patrick’s Day. (yes, the whole week is nuts but the actual day is ‘quick-get-the-heck-out-of-Dodge-I-mean,-Butte’ day…unless you are big on drinking and boozing).  And, no, they are not going to change the date of the celebration because of the beginning of the Holy Week…even though most of the town is Catholic.  Hmm…whatever!  Then, of course, I will be leaving just before Easter.  Sniffle, sniffle.  Maybe I will go and visit the ol’ Marugame branch that Sunday (since I don’t really know anyone in my new ward except for the singles I met the night before my interview…)

Oh yeah, I’ve been listening to Gackt’s newer stuff…I am actually beginning to really like his music…a lot.  RETURNER is awesome. (And I also loved Mind Forest…they sound pretty similar but they are just so…epic.)  Not so fond of his earlier stuff still.  Don’t know why.  Just not my cup of tea. The music video for RETURNER is just awesome, it really reminds me of his part as Uesugi Kenshin in Fuurinkazan.  The song is currently on the top of all my playlists…just like the others I will play this one to death.  I was surprised to see his music on iTunes so I decided to give it a try.  Fell in love.  He reminds me of an asian David Bowie.  Of course, I loved David Bowie in the Labyrinth…which I watched when I was five…so my obsession with fantasy and music started really young…I can blame that on my mother as well. (^_^)