Japan Earthquake - A World Nomads Producer's Experience

The Japan earthquake in March 2011 affected many of us at World Nomads very personally with one of our own on the ground.

But we have been in almost constant contact with one World Nomad - ironically one of the WN Travel Safety team.

Jesse Perez is a Producer at WorldNomads, and he switched off his computer (temporarily) on Wednesday to head off for a couple of weeks in Japan.... and flew straight into the earthquake.

Fortunately for Jesse, and for us, he was outside the immediate danger zone, he's in Osaka from where he penned (okay pressed buttons) this Japan quake perspective for us.

Stay safe Jesse.

Jesse's blog

When the earthquake hit, my friend Dan and I were sitting in a tiny laneway restaurant nestled deep in the heart of Namba, Osaka.

The hyperactive frequency of Japan is easy to get lost in, and it's only when you settle down for a second that you are able to gain some perspective on what is going on around you. Tucking into our soup, we glanced up at the TV to see a flashing map of Japan, the entire eastern seaboard covered in red and orange.

Apocalyptic Nightmare

For the next 24 hours we would see this superimposed map, blinking like a beacon wherever we would go. It sat upon scenes of unspeakable devastation which echoed Indonesia and Haiti - huge plumes of water soaring down subways, score-tonne freight containers floating along the water like marshmallows, images of office buildings with petrified workers hanging on for dear life as their workplaces shook with tremendous force.

The broadcasts themselves were of an apocalyptic eeriness - news presenters, donned in hard hats, delivered information as it came to them, with stacks of papers piling up behind them. Journalists in the background frantically scrambling to piece together the tumult of information in front of them. In the thick of this, an aftershock rattles the studio walls, causing the news presenter to gasp in terror.

In the upper right corner, a counter kept ticking over, the Kanji detailing 'Dead' and 'Missing'. This tally would continue to rise unabated throughout the night, and conversations with Japanese nationals would reveal a typical, quiet concern for family and friends all over the country.

Chilling Encounter

One girl I spoke to mentioned that her grandparents were in Myagi prefecture, along with over 800 people stranded in a gymnasium, which was in danger of catching fire. Her words were chilling as she gently resigned to the fact that she would quite possibly never see them again.

The stories, concerns, and worries flowed, but Namba continued to pump along - It is a section of the city that is restless, and even in the face of abject devastation, it sustains its normal level of madness with relative ease. But while the geographical distance from the quake provided a practical solace, you could tell that the reality of the situation, and the potential danger, wasn't far from everyone's mind.

The experiences of a morning observing the breathtaking Osaka castle, a structure packed with a brilliant, beautiful, yet bloody history - an afternoon spent lodged in the thick of Namba's amazing grid of brilliantly bursting electronic intensity and chaotic confusion, which merged into an evening lost in that region's labyrinth of Bladerunner-esque laneways and sidebars.

The chance meeting of Dave, a brilliant singer and musician from New Orleans who invited me and my friends to his kooky Creole apartment bar for a great Delta blues jam session, then the culmination of a twilight hour dubstep freak-out dance bust at an underground micro-bar with a group of crazy fun Japanese people.

All these experiences, amazing and beautiful - superimposed by the unrelenting, blinking map, reminding me of the horrible, tragic reality that everyone in Japan now faces. A map that will blink, i'm assuming, for some time now.

We are scheduled to go to Tokyo on the 16th of March

What To Do

  • Expect aftershocks.
  • Each time one is felt, drop, cover, and hold on.
  • Check yourself first for injuries and get first aid if necessary before helping injured or trapped persons.
  • Assess your home or workplace for damage. If the building appears unsafe get everyone out. Use the stairs, not an elevator and when outside, watch out for fallen power lines or broken gas lines.
  • Stay out of damaged areas.
  • Look for and extinguish small fires if it is safe to do so. Fire is a significant hazard following earthquakes.
  • Listen to the radio for updated emergency information and instructions.
  • Do not overload phone lines with non-emergency calls.
  • Help people who require special assistance - infants, elderly people, those without transportation, families who may need additional help, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them.

What Is Happening to Me and Who Do I Call?

It is important to remember that the situation you are in can be extremely stressful.

Call home and your country's Consulate or Embassy to let them know where you are, if you are alright and if you need any assistance.

Keeping an item of comfort nearby, such as a family photo, favorite music, or religious material, can often offer comfort in such situations.

Call the emergency assistance hotlines should you need immediate attention (phone numbers below for WorldNomad's policy holders).

When you get out or get back home if you become unwell within 6 weeks of returning with fever, rash, respiratory illness or any other unusual symptoms seek medical attention and tell them that you were recently in a Disaster affected region.

Get a travel insurance quote for Japan

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2 Comments

  • Jillian said

    Incredibly beautiful and descriptive writing. Thank you for sharing with us so we can help!

  • ana said

    My heart goes out to all who have been affected by this disaster, it seems like everyone knows someone who is near or in that area. People think the end of the world is coming, because of this with Japan, with Haiti, but maybe they are all just good reminders of the fact that we are all human beings and we are not so different as we all think.

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