Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Remembering the Great Kanto Earthquake three years ago


Today is the third year anniversary of the Great Kanto Earthquake that struck Japan just after lunch on March 11, 2010.

I was in Tokyo on that day, and I'd just had lunch with friends at the Tokyo American Club, before heading for Narita airport to catch a Japan Airlines flight out.

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A VERY BUSY AND NEVER-ENDING TRAVELIFE
MANILA FOR SATURDAY DINNER

It was a Friday, and I was on my way to Manila that night, to make it in time to attend a wine dinner at Masseto in Makati on Saturday night.

SINGAPORE FOR SUNDAY LUNCH



And then early Sunday morning, I was flying out of Manila to arrive in Singapore just before lunch.

I had a chicken rice lunch date with an old school friend and her family at Chatterbox, along Orchard Road.

We were going to meet at the restaurant after I'd checked into my hotel.

SINGAPORE FOR SUNDAY DRINKS
AND A BARBECUE DINNER



On Sunday night, I had drinks planned with some friends who had just relocated to Singapore from Tokyo, and then a dinner.

Monday morning, very early once more, I was due back at Changi Airport to catch a Silkair flight to Bali.

COCKTAILS ON BOARD THE SILVER SPIRIT
SAILING OUT OF BALI
ON MONDAY NIGHT



A car was waiting at the Bali airport to take me across the island to Benoa Port, in time to board Silversea's Silver Spirit ship and cruise out of Bali with it towards Malaysia.

5 COUNTRIES AND A GREAT EARTHQUAKE
IN 72 HOURS

Tokyo-Manila-Singapore-Bali-Malaysia in 72 hours.

If that sounds hectic, well, it was just another long weekend in my never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.




THE EARTH SHAKES 
AFTER LUNCH IN TOKYO

Unfortunately, the earthquake struck after lunch in Tokyo, just as I was on the very top (and the most vulnerable part) of Tokyo's Rainbow Bridge, which is a suspension bridge, on the road to Narita Airport.

This was the worst place to be in Tokyo, on that afternoon.



I remember getting jolted out of my nap by tremendous shakes and screaming everywhere.

Then, when I looked outside my window, there was Tokyo Bay staring at me. I thought we were going to plunge into the bay.

Fortunately we didn't.
10 HOURS IN LIMBO



But I ended up spending 10 hours trapped in a vehicle with no heater, food or water.

It was complete chaos everywhere, although I also remember how so many people were walking around in a lost daze, just like in some movie about the end of the world.

SOMEONE WAS WATCHING OUT FOR ME



During those 10 hours, the gods were kind to me. 

I had absolutely nothing on me save for an inspirational book I'd picked up at the Tokyo American Club library on the way out.

That certainly was useful for those 10 long hours between life and death.

THE TRAVEL COMPANION 
KEEPS MY SPIRITS UP



The Travel Companion also kept me company for most of those 10 hours via BBM.

By pure coincidence, he'd just gotten me to sign up for Blackberry's BBM before I left for Manila, on the premise that we would save a small fortune in text charges.

At the time the earthquake struck, he was the only person on my BBM directory.



Mobile phones were out and the Internet had given way already, along with the battery of my laptop. Only BBM was actually working. 

So we had no news whatsoever except whatever updates the Travel Companion sent me via phone while watching CNN and the news.

So he pretty much kept me company and amused during what could have been a most terrible ordeal.

ONE NIGHT AT NARITA AIRPORT



Eventually we reached Narita Airport, where I spent the night on the floor of the airport.

The ceiling jingled and jangled all night with aftershocks, but at least I was warm, dry and sleeping horizontally in a sleeping bag.

I had no idea about the next few days or hours, but I was pretty much resigned to having the rest of my Travelife canceled for the foreseeable future.

I AM SO INCREDIBLY LUCKY



As luck would have it, Narita Airport was practically closed the following day and it was virtually impossible to get to the airport from Tokyo or anywhere else, as the highways were closed and trains were not running.

However, one of the handful of airplanes that was actually able to take off that day included the Japan Airlines flight to Manila. The flight was virtually empty, but I was on it.

EVERYTHING'S ON SCHEDULE
IN A TRAVELIFE



So, in spite of the greatest earthquake to hit Japan in memory, I was at my wine dinner in Manila on Saturday night, at Chatterbox in Singapore for lunch on Sunday, in Bali for lunch on Monday, and on the Silver Spirit as it sailed out of Bali for Malaysia on Monday night.

With a glass of champagne in hand, and living a never-ending, and never-endingly eventful Travelife.


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