Today’s Quakes in Japan
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There was a cluster of large earthquakes in northeastern Japan today; we didn't feel any of them here in Kyoto.

The main one, a magnitude 8.9 9.0 monster that would fit as the 7th largest earthquake in recorded history at the U.S. Geological Survey, just above the one in Chile last year (Wikipedia concurs), was luckily fairly far out to sea. It's a smaller earthquake closer to the mainland half an hour later that really rocked Tokyo. It's during that later/closer quake that I was first alerted to the situation here in Kyoto when a friend texted me “Big f#@*!ng earthquake. Currently under table.”

Then I went to my go-to source for Japanese real-time earthquake info, I saw that the larger one had hit earlier, a whopping 7 on the Japanese scale of local earthquake perception, which maxes out at 7: “Thrown by the shaking and impossible to move at will.”. I hadn't seen a shindo number that high since the big quake in Kobe in 1995 (one which I most certainly did feel).

For the first time since the World Wide Web became mainstream, I turned on NHK News in English this evening, four hours after the strongest quakes. The first subject was the transport gridlock in Tokyo, since most train services have shut down for the day and some bus lines as well.

Eventually they got to the tsunami damage, with some amazing video from helicopters of a tsunami washing over an area of sparsely populated farmland/countryside (see halfway down on this page). This particular area was hit an hour and a half after the quake, so people had plenty of warning, but in watching the video I see the video cut away just as the wave reaches a road with moving cars (yet the announcer makes no mention of it), so it's a bit eerie. I hope people are okay.

It seems not many have been hurt or killed, but there's a heck of a lot of damage, and tens of millions of people dependent on the transportation infrastructure are going to be hurting today and tomorrow. [UPDATE: I clearly read things wrong that first night.]

As I watch the news, every so often an automated system flashes up an alert of a new earthquake in the magnitude 5 and 6 range. We see these from time to time any time an even mild quake hits anywhere in Japan.

But wow, just as I'm writing the above, a different kind of alert just popped up... one very much in your face about a particularly big tremor just detected (but without additional info at this early stage), so it seems that it's still an ongoing.

They're also now showing live video of tsunami finally hitting some areas from the earlier tremors.

Anyway, we're fine here in Kyoto, far from the ocean and the epicenters of these quakes. Our prayers are with those affected.

The friend that texted me during the quake was up in Tokyo for what was supposed to have been a day trip for a conference, but he's stuck up there and the phones aren't letting calls go through, so I've spent the evening chatting via the iPhone WhatsApp SMS app, shuttling messages back and forth to his family who can't otherwise contact him.

That reminds me a bit of the situation after the big Kobe quake in 95... I couldn't make a phone call across the street, but I could email family in America. I took a few months from writing the first edition of my book to create a web site (yes, a web site in 1995) to help people outside of Japan find out about affected folks in Japan, including long lists of the 6,000+ dead. Hopefully such a thing won't be needed this time.

In the hour and a half since I started writing this post, there have been well over a dozen magnitude 5+ tremors, so I guess it remains to be seen...

Update: small update on the friend stuck in Tokyo. Rather than spend the night at the conference venue, he walked an hour to a friend's place. I just got a text that he had arrived safely, but the elevators have been stopped so he has to walk up the stairs. To the 53rd floor.

All 24 comments so far, oldest first...

Dear Jeffrey,
Our deepest sympathy and prayers are with people who has suffered from this disaster. I hope the damage will not increase and things get under control as soon as possible.
Kind regards,

— comment by Tevfik Cetin on March 11th, 2011 at 9:39pm JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

I must have seen the same video – cutting away just as the monster wave was approaching the highway. When I heard the news here in US, one of the first things I thought of doing was hitting your site to see what you were seeing and hearing. My thoughts and prayers are with all of those affected in Japan.

— comment by Andy on March 11th, 2011 at 10:04pm JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

I am glad that you and your family are safe, we will keep you in our prayers. Most of my wife’s family are in Shikoku and Chugoku areas so they are safe. We pray for those that died and for their souls. Thank you so much for your website.

— comment by Michael Yoder on March 11th, 2011 at 11:03pm JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

I’m happy that you and your family are fine.
Kind thoughts and wishes for the many families who are affected.

— comment by John on March 11th, 2011 at 11:17pm JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Deepest prayers, hopes & thoughts for your family and friends and the people in the Sendai / Tokyo / Fukushima area. We are grateful that your immediate family is no where near the affected area. I have people in Himeji, Nagoya and Kagoshima –sure they are fine but have not been able to contact them.

Thank you for your blog post and please keep updating… -the American News coverage is somewhat America-centric so all the coverage has to do with the Tsunami hitting the Hawaii and the Western U.S. coast. Your inside perspective is very appreciated. Thank you.

— comment by Ron Evans on March 12th, 2011 at 12:10am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

From the morning I’m watching NHK Live ustream.
I’m really shocked, what happened. My friend in Sapporo told us that they felt some earthquake, but nothing much serious… and then they heard about tsunami and all… I just hard to believe… I was in Japan on 2009 and I want to come back there…. Glad to hear that Kyoto is ok… I’m praying for everyone in Japan and other places where tsunami will attack…..Japanese are hard spirit people so they’ll manage to go through it!!!

— comment by Hane on March 12th, 2011 at 12:20am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

thank you so much for the blog. Am trying to reach my friend’s family outside of Kyoto with no luck (phone’s down), but thanks to your blog we know there is less likely to be severe damage in their area.

If “Kyoto” would be used in describing their location, they probably didn’t even feel the quake, nor were at risk for any tsunami, so don’t fret. —Jeffrey

— comment by cassie on March 12th, 2011 at 3:21am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Glad you and your family are safe Jeffrey.

— comment by Marc on March 12th, 2011 at 3:32am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Thoughts and prayers for everyone there. I’m glad you and your family are safe. I have been keeping up with what’s happening via NHK. Videos and photos are so shocking.

Sending my aloha to Japan.

— comment by Diane on March 12th, 2011 at 3:59am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Very glad you and your family are safe and well. Out hearts go out to those that are suffering in Japan today and in the foreseeable future.

— comment by Gareth Jones on March 12th, 2011 at 4:33am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Glad to hear you’re okay – like Andy above, one of my first thoughts was to check your blog for a more personal note on the situation; thanks for posting. All the best for those in more dire conditions over there!

Cary, NC

— comment by Brent on March 12th, 2011 at 5:50am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Glad to hear that you and your family are fine.

My thoughts go out to those who are affect by this disaster.


— comment by TopL on March 12th, 2011 at 6:22am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Our thoughts, too, are with you and especially with all those affected by this terrible event. Much relieved to know that you and, as far as I know, my friends and colleagues are not in the affected areas.

— comment by Peter in Wales on March 12th, 2011 at 6:32am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Glad you’re okay!
My thoughts are with those affected.

— comment by Sean McCormack on March 12th, 2011 at 6:49am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Glad that everything in Koyoto is okay!

— comment by John on March 12th, 2011 at 7:44am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Good to know you’re alright. Our thoughts are with the victims, their families and all of you

— comment by Maciej on March 12th, 2011 at 7:54am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Bless. I am glad you didn’t feel a thing since you are in Kyoto. Let’s hope everyone can return to their life as soon as possible and no more serious damage gong on. – Leon

— comment by Leon on March 12th, 2011 at 10:51am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

It’s great to know you and your family are safe. Thanks for posting this report. I hope your friend made it to the 53rd floor safely.

It’s heart rending to see the images of destruction. I do hope there will be no further big aftershocks to make things worse. Any words of sympathy seem totally inadequate. I just know the Japanese people will get through this with dignity, somehow. I shudder to think how the scenario would be in a less disciplined, less civilized society.

I heard by email from a friend in Yokohama, who also came through unscathed—though she had to walk home for two hours—in high heels.


— comment by Marylis on March 12th, 2011 at 10:52am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Jeffrey, so glad to hear that you and your family are safe.

— comment by Daniel Sroka on March 13th, 2011 at 10:42pm JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Been worried if the quake got to your community in the weekend but I’m relieved to know that you and your family is okay in Kyoto. Though I have to admit that I’m still uneasy with the nuclear plant’s core temperature rising.

— comment by James Tuazon on March 14th, 2011 at 2:01am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Great to hear you are ok. Our thoughts are with everyone in Japan. Be safe!

— comment by A fan on March 14th, 2011 at 3:25am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink

Good to see you and your family are OK. Every day I’m following updates from the TV, I’m close to everyone there in Japan. You are not alone.

— comment by Roberto on March 16th, 2011 at 6:51am JST (10 years ago) comment permalink


I was wondering if I knew anyone in Japan and then I remembered that I used to read this blog voraciously for about 2 years. Your recent posts like the one with your son swimming made me happy because I saw that you guys are OK and that’s great.

Continued luck to you and your family!

— comment by Eric Mesa on March 22nd, 2011 at 9:26pm JST (9 years, 11 months ago) comment permalink

Mar. 09 – 7.2
Mar. 11 – The BIG one!
Mar. 11 – 7.2
Mar. 11 – 7.7
Mar. 11 – 7.9
Apr. 07 – 7.4

— comment by JapanHelp on May 15th, 2011 at 2:06pm JST (9 years, 10 months ago) comment permalink
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