Sunday, July 24, 2005

Earthquake In Tokyo

Everything's fine here today, but Saturday when I was about to set off for my futsal game an hour outside of the city, the earthquake struck, shutting down all the trains and subways. I was in the basement level of Ueno station at the time, and when I first noticed a vibration, I thought it was just a train passing. Instead of stopping though, it grew stronger, eventually becoming strong enough to make the lights sway.

After the quake stopped, the station staff made announcements telling us there had been a strong earthquake in Tokyo and that as a result, all the trains were stopped for safety checks. No passengers were allowed inside the ticket gates, and the stations quickly became jammed with huge crowds of people whose plans had been interrupted. The lines for the buses grew huge, and all the taxis were full of passengers, running without their normal "in service" or "occupied" lights- no doubt raking in the cash. If the earthquake had hit during a weekday, there really would have been chaos. Tokyoites wholly depend on the trains and subways to travel.

After waiting for 30 minutes or so, the situation hadn't improved. The announcements still had no estimated time for resumption of service. For safety, they had to check all the tracks and stations for damage. Outside Ueno station everyone was milling about, some with suitcases, others in yukata, postponing plans on their cell phones.

I decided to hoof it home, an excuse to see a new side of the city. I had walked home from Ueno once before, but this time I had no map on hand, and had to make do with the ones I encountered on the street corners. It took me about three hours, snaking through quiet neighborhoods, past kids setting off fireworks in empty streets. Fortunately it was a cool night, good for walking, but I was still beat when I got home. Thankfully nothing was damaged there (although the elevator was out-of-order) but it made me want to get my earthquake kit in order, that's for sure. Last weekend I saw that cool, crank-powered radio/flashlight for sale in Yokohama...


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