First-hand report from Tokyo from Star Travel correspondent C. James Dale
C. James Dale
Special to the Star
TOKYO -- My wife and I had just returned home from a late lunch and barely had our coats off when everything started to shake. We looked at each other and froze.
After a year in Japan, we were used to the odd tremor - the country is located in one of the most active earthquake regions in the world after all. But then the shaking became more violent and we knew this was going to be big. We huddled against a wall in our second storey apartment and waited it out. Our building started rocking back and forth violently.
We held onto each other tightly, looking across the street at the low-rise office complex as it swayed like a giant white sheet in a breeze. We said our "I love you's," my wife said she wanted to move back to Canada, and then after a couple of minutes everything stopped shaking.
After nervously getting to our feet, we decided to head outside. Many people were gathering in the street, some in shock and others just worried about friends and family in other parts of Japan. But it wasn't over. Just as we were asking a neighbour if he'd experienced something like this before, the aftershocks started rolling in. They certainly weren't as violent as the main event, but they were enough to keep us alert and worried about our safety.
On top of that, the cell phone networks dropped out, the trains stopped running, and tens of thousands of people were stranded in Tokyo. Roads are a mess (see photo). But despite being scared, and likely in shock, I'm counting myself lucky as I look at the video and photos of the devastation along Japan's northeastern coast.
This country is prepared for natural disasters, but it's hard to prepare for something like this. The death, the destruction, and the fear. I know once my wife gets some sleep she won't make good on that promise to get on the next flight out of here. But for the rest of the time that we're living in Tokyo, we'll definitely be a little more on edge.
Back to Travel Editor Jim Byers
JAPAN AND NEW ZEALAND BONDS STRENGTHEN FROM DISASTERS
Terrible, terrible images in the news this morning from Japan, as our man in Tokyo said.
Around about the time I was watching the horrific video reports (see photo below) at the star.com and on the BBC's website, I checked my email and found a note from the Tourism New Zealand people about a very touching gesture of support for victims of the Christchurch, N.Z. quake a few weeks ago. It seems a group of Japanese tourists were visiting Auckland the other day and collected funds to help Christchurch victims. They also left a personal note on hotel stationery, offering their moral support for those hit by the New Zealand quake.
"We would like to donate to you. Our aim of the donation is to recover this massive disaster for all victims and Christchurch city. We hope you and the city get well soon."
It was signed: "Best (wishes) from 52 Japanese tourists."
The JTB Kyushu tour party, which arrived in New Zealand on 27 February, spent seven nights in New Zealand. Originally scheduled to visit Christchurch city, their readjusted post-earthquake itinerary gave them extra time to see other parts of the Canterbury region - which were open, operating and welcoming visitors - as well as some extended time in the North Island.
It was so strange to read news of that letter about the same time as I saw Japan suffering so badly from their own earthquake, and the following tsunami and fires (see photo). There's no way of knowing, but I wouldn't be the least surprised to see some generous Kiwi's dip into their savings accounts to help the victims of the Japanese quake.
It doesn't change the terrible situation in both countries, but the actions of the tourists from Japan demonstrates, once again, that there's something deeply honorable about the human spirit. We have our foibles, but in the end we usually do the right thing.
China Southern Airlines gave about $100,000 to the New Zealand relief fund, and that's also worth noting.
Meanwhile, I see that Prince William (not sure about Kate) will visit Christchurch for a national memorial service to honour the victims of last month’s earthquake.
Prime Minister John Key says Prince William will represent the Queen at the service in North Hagley Park in Christchurch on 18 March. The day has also been declared a provincial holiday for Canterbury residents.
As part of the memorial day, New Zealanders will observe two minutes' silence at the exact time the Christchurch earthquake struck and flags on NZ government buildings will fly at half mast.