This first-person account of the Japanese earthquake was written March 14 by Noboru Yamaguchi, senior executive adviser, Fiduciary Services Research Center, Nomura Securities Co. Ltd., Tokyo.
It was 2:46 p.m. on March 11. I was working in my office on the 18th floor of Nomura Securities headquarters in the central business area of Tokyo. The earthquake was gentle at first but in a few seconds got stronger; it continued for several minutes. The building itself rolled; I felt a kind of seasickness because of the motion.
We have helmets and flashlights in our office for emergencies, and so we donned our helmets and hid under our desks.
Fortunately no one was injured and the office was not destroyed. Elevators stopped; the whiteboard fell off the wall; the printer moved slightly. E-mail and mobile phone services were disrupted. Several aftershocks came later.
This was the most terrifying experience I have had since I was born in 1943.
I could not reach my wife, who was at home, so sent a fax to let her know I was safe.
From my office, I could see the Tokyo Central Railway Station; no trains were moving. We saw black smoke from a far away building.
I stayed at the office until 5:45 p.m. and then went down to the street.
Traffic was the worst; no public transportation — including taxis — was available.
So many people were walking to get home. I walked for 90 minutes and finally found a taxi on its way back from the suburbs. It then took another four hours by taxi to reach my home, although it's only 23 kilometers (14.3 miles) from the office.
On Saturday, I learned that many people had stayed overnight at schools, the convention center, railway stations, etc. My house was safe, but many books had fallen from the bookcases.
My daughter, her husband and two small boys had gone to Tokyo Disneyland on March 11. I called and e-mailed, but it was impossible to communicate with her. Later I learned from the Internet that there were no injuries or deaths at Disneyland. My daughter and her family didn't have a portable charger for their mobile phone. (A portable radio, charger, flashlight, helmet and mobile phone are necessary for everybody in such a case.)
Because of the combination of earthquake and tsunami, the Japanese economy is suffering seriously. We are well prepared for earthquakes, but this time the damage of the tsunami was greater than that of the earthquake. The nuclear plants were damaged by the tsunami; the lack of electricity means public transportation and manufacturing are badly affected.
People are buying more food, drinks and gasoline than normal, in case of another emergency. But the distribution system is not functioning well yet because of highway and railway damage in the northern part of Japan.
Business activities might be affected for several months because of the poor public transportation and rolling blackouts caused by the shutdowns of nuclear power and thermal power generation plants in the northern part of Japan. n