The year 2011 would be “annus miserabilis” (a miserable year) for Japan. This year will go down as one of the most appalling in Japan’s history, due to the dreadful first-in-1,000-years earthquake and tsunami and the consecutive nuclear plant damage in Fukushima on 11 March.
On the day when the earthquake struck our land, I was working at the office as usual in Tokyo. At the very time when the quake occurred, I was walking on the stairway, and I saw everything beginning to swing. At first, I thought it was because I had a dizzy spell due to my high blood pressures, but soon I found out it was the land that was swaying because I saw a string suspended from the ceiling do so together with any other things. Then the amplitude of the tremor grew larger and larger. It reminded me of the Hanshin Awaji earthquake I had experienced in 1995 when living in Nishinomiya. I felt the quake lasted for one or two minutes, but I couldn’t do anything but let the matter take its own course.
After it ceased, I entered the office room, where everybody was shocked. Some escaped under the desk, and some stood still holding the books on the shelf so that they wouldn’t fall. Tellys in the office was turned on. Every TV station was broadcasting the breaking news on the earthquake. The government announced tsunami alerts nationwide, but I didn’t think that a tsunami would suffer so much even if it would come, because a similar situation was just one year before when an earthquake happened in Chile followed by a tsunami, which came to the Sanriku area but didn’t hurt it at all.
However, about an hour later, I saw on the TV screen the seawater overflow over the banks and coastal roads into the rice fields, washing up cars, buildings, and everything that was right there. I felt like watching an action film, as the scene was too far from reality.
On that day, I had to stay in the office until midnight, because the Tokyo area was suffered a great deal as well and there were no trains and public transportations available, and some networks in the Tohoku area were damaged, and we had to fix it. At midnight trains started moving again, but they were very crowded with millions of people rushing home, so I returned home on foot. It took about an hour to get back home.
After the disasters, most roads were full of thousands of unmovable cars in the first two days. After the roads were clear, petrol was running short. Many cars had to queue up in front of petrol stations to had them filled up. Thank god my car’s fuel tank was almost full because I had filled it up one week before.
I was not so troubled with my everyday life after the disasters. Bath tissues were running short, but I had bought 30 rolls of them at Costco one week before, so they were quite enough for a single household. The pet bottles of drinking water disappeared at convenience stores and supermarkets due to the likelihood of tap water contaminated by radioactive materials. However, the pet bottles of tea and soda were still on sale. My inconvenience was negligible, compared with the survivors who were forced to stay in evacuation facilities.
In the first few weeks after the disasters, people all over Japan were united. They considered the disasters as a national issue, not a Tohoku-specific local one, unlike the Hanshin-Awaji case. They all cared for the survivors in the suffered area and did their best to try to save them by donations and volunteer activities. Their mind was beautiful, one of the Japanese virtues to take pride in.
On the last day of this year, the time has come to recall what I did and experienced this year. Though this event is unforgettable, my end-of-year review will focus on more positive aspects.
The keywords of the year 2011 are: a car, British culture and China.
A car is what I purchased in January. Having my own car was the first in three years. Driving a car with a manual gearbox was the first in 17 years. I reviewed how to drive on educational videos posted on YouTube to get used to manoeuvres early.
British culture is what I experienced deeply this year as well as in the last four years. This year I was able to enjoy the British Hills in Fukushima I desired to visit for ages.
The last one, China, is that I visited Shanghai in January for business and Hong Kong in November for personal purposes. It was the first time to visit mainland China and the first in six years to Hong Kong. Actually, I wanted to visit Beijing in March, but I gave it up because of the disasters.
The year 2011 is really “annus miserabilis” for many people and me in Japan, but I hope the next year be “annus mirabilis” (miracle year).