3.14.2011

3 - 11- 11 in Tokyo

Photos and thoughts from the day of the earthquake...



It was one of those bright days that looked warm, but was briskly chilly. Because the sun was shining, our group was excited to get out into the streets of Tokyo. The previous day we had visited a temple in Nikko (two hours north and west in the mountains), and the day before that had been an unplanned travel day as we left Micronesia because our departure plane had a broken engine sensor. That resulted in a six-hour wait at a tiny airport on the island of Chuk for a rescue plane which made us miss our connection thus having to stay overnight in Guam. Nice hotel that the airline paid for though :) ... and good night's sleep in the Hyatt Heavenly Bed.

OK back to Tokyo...

This is our tourist group: Dex Bowen, friend of Brett; Brett Stevenson, Gary & Lesa's son; Mike Raymond, our son; Erika Baldwin, Lesa's niece; Debbie and Scott. Lesa is taking the picture. Kyle is at school and Gary is at the Tokyo headquarters for the church - he's president of the Asia North Area.



Lesa knew the perfect place to take everyone for shopping and culture - and we loved it. We went to the Asakusa area to see the pagoda above and Senso-ji Temple below and to shop on a fun market street called Nakamise-dori that had food booths, sweet shops, lovely Japanese goods, and souvenir stands. 'People watching' here was wonderful too.


Here are some Tokyo girls dressed in their graduation kimonos - darling less-traditional kimono/dresses. They were posing with tourists at the gate in front of the shopping street. Oh, they were cute, giggly girls.








We got on a river tourist boat sort of like this and went on an hour ride on the Sumida-Gawa river from Asakusa to Odaiba - an island with shops and restaurants where we had arranged to meet Gary for a late lunch. We saw all kinds of boats and yachts, and of course beautiful buildings along the way - and unusual sculpture.


Scott loved the bridges - twelve of them that we passed under or saw - each one painted a different color. He photographed most of them. To think that these bridges withstood the movement of the earthquake is a tribute to Japanese engineering and building code.



So, on the boat is where we were when the largest earthquake in the history of Japan hit. We didn't feel a thing.

Everyone on the boat wondered what was going on when off in the distance we saw a large cloud of smoke around Odaiba - in fact Scott and Mike were complaining because the smoke ruined their photos of Rainbow Bridge. No one knew it was from an earthquake.


We wonder if the small boats pictured above felt the shaking or noticed more waves in the water - we did not. It wasn't until we got off the boat to transfer to another boat that we found out about the earthquake and that we would not be going to Odaiba.

From our taxis, which Lesa luckily found and herded us into to head home after getting off the boat, we marveled at how the streets were filled with people who had evacuated the thousands of office buildings and businesses. People were standing and looking skyward, or walking quickly. They had their emergency helmets on. Some were standing holding on to trees or lamposts feeling the aftershocks and wondering if there would be another quake. We felt the tremors - they shook the car as if someone was behind rocking it.

Meantime, as I wrote in earlier blog posts, Gary was in the van waiting for us to arrive at the pier, and he WAS feeling the earthquake. Kyle was in gym class at school and felt it too - and then endured the seven-hour bus ride through Tokyo from school to home.

Our taxi ride through the city was amazingly quick - considering the state of events. I think that we were ahead of the traffic jams because people were still at work and didn't know whether to leave or stay. We arrived at the apartment and Brett ran first up the five flights of stairs. We could hear Brett yelling about what the place looked like.





Poor Lesa - she just walked from room to room in shock. It was so unreal to see so many of their beautiful belongings on the floor some broken and ruined. We didn't touch a thing - wanted Gary and Kyle to see it too.

It was a long evening - waiting for Kyle and watching the sickening TV news. But it was the BEST sight to see Kyle come walking through the back door of their apartment.

I guess what's interesting to me is that life just went on in Tokyo after the earthquake. There was an eerie sense of calm - I would have expected panic in the streets. Our plans were changed because we couldn't travel to Sendai, but we went to Ueno Park in Tokyo and shopping. There was damage to things that had fallen at the apartment - Lesa's beautiful vases, ceramic jars, and china, but no building were toppled etc. It affected Gary of course - he spent the next days and nights at the office organizing the effort to locate every missionary in Japan and then every church member. He's still there morning to late into the night figuring out where to relocate the missionaries that are in affected areas and how to begin to provide humanitarian aid.

Our thoughts were constantly with Gary and his counselors and the church employees who were on phones all night at the church offices trying to locate missionaries and then call their families, and we cheered each time Gary reported that another two missionaries had reached an evacuation center and contacted someone to say they were safe. We helped Lesa take food and messages from their apartment to the offices. We watched the images on TV with shock and sadness - especially Mike because Sendai is where he served his mission. I'm going to try to do another post about that.

We continued to feel lots of aftershocks and tremors over the next few days. It's a strange feeling to feel the earth swaying. But we were able to go sightseeing and shopping and Tokyo seemed busy and moving forward...and unbelievably calm. We experienced NO power outages or loss of heat or water. The subways and trains ran most of the time - though there were brownouts and times when they shut down to save power because of the nuclear situation.

We left Tokyo on our scheduled flight - again nothing changed for us. However, we know and understand that the earthquake changed everything for millions of people and our hearts are there with them.

4 comments:

cozy said...

I'm so glad you're a writer! I have been following your posts just like I would the evening news. Your life is practically back to normal, but I'm sure you will never be the same. Your concern for the people of Japan (not just family members) is now personal. I have heard about ways to help on TV, but maybe you have ideas and connections that would make it possible to do our own service project, maybe with Sew & Sews. I'm looking forward to visiting with you, and am so grateful for God's tender mercy in keeping you from the epicenter!

Laurie said...

Debbie - what an experience! I am with Norma - the Sew n Sews need a project! Thanks for the post, my heart is aching for these people. I am so impressed that they are self-sufficient, and are trying to help others even when they are left with nothing. I want to hear more!
Laurie

Megan Maughan said...

Debbie- What an incredible experience this must have been! I followed your Facebook and your blog while I was at work over the weekend just for the updates, it was quicker and probably more accurate than watching the news! I can't imagine being there at a time like that, how scary and life changing, and amazing it must have been all at the same time!

Rachel's Mom said...

Debbie ~ I am a friend of Nancy's, and she posted your wonderful article on FB. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. As the other commenters have mentioned, it was so nice to hear a perspective from someone who was actually there, and who is not focused on the negative. I'll look forward to reading other posts from you in the future.