The biggest earthquake in Japan’s history

11 Mar

Today at about 2:45PM I was outside and I noticed the telephone wires overheard begin to swing wildly. It was a nice sunny day and not windy at all, so I was wondering why the wires would suddenly be moving like that.

And then as soon as it dawned on me that it was probably due to an 地震 (earthquake)…I felt the ground shake. I’ve been in a number of earthquakes here in Japan but this was the strongest I’ve felt the ground move. It gave me a queasy feeling.
It lasted a few minutes…which is quite enough time for an earthquake to do a lot of damage…and it got stronger. The buildings in front of me began to sway.

For the next few hours there were many aftershocks. Some of them quite strong.
It’s now 7:00PM and the most recent aftershock was about thirty minutes ago.
Maybe it’s finally over. I hope so! It was quite scary.

Actually though, we were lucky. A lot of things fell over in our house…but no serious damage—and most importantly, none of us were hurt.

Unfortunately, many people weren’t so lucky. At least nineteen people have been confirmed dead.
This earthquake, which has already been named—「2011年東北地方太平洋沖地震」 (“2011 Tohoku-Region Pacific Earthquake”), registered a 7 on Japan’s 震度 (Shindo) earthquake scale at the epicenter in Sendai, Japan!
“7” is the highest rating on that scale!
In Tokyo, it was rated as “5” in parts of the city and “6” in others.
On the western “Richter” earthquake scale, it was rated at “8.9“.

 

Tsunami warning map of Japan

A 津波 (“Tsunami” tidal wave) caused by the earthquake hit Sendai and swept up cars and boats and caused casualties and damage.

Boats upturned by the Tsunami. (photo ©Yahoo News)

In the Tokyo area, the earthquake caused a couple large fires.

A building in Odaiba, Tokyo caught fire in the earthquake (photo ©Yahoo News)

An oil refinery in Chiba, Japan near Tokyo caught ablaze in the earthquake (photo ©Yahoo News)

The 「2011年東北地方太平洋沖地震」 (“2011 Tohoku-Region Pacific Earthquake”) is officially the biggest earthquake on record in Japan’s history. And it’s in the top ten of the world’s biggest.
The said on the TV news that today’s earthquake was 180 times more powerful at it’s epicenter in Sendai, Japan than the 「関東大震災」 (Great Kanto Earthquake) that flattened Tokyo in 1923!

110 Responses to “The biggest earthquake in Japan’s history”

  1. Kytriya March 13, 2011 at 9:40 am #

    tokyo5 :
    >I forgot exactly where tokyo was in relationship to where the tsunami hit the hardest.
    I see. Tokyo is a couple hours south by 新幹線 (bullet train).
    >A Geodesic dome is like half a golf ball used as a house. When a tornado hits it, the dome can absorb much of the shock.
    OK. Actually many of the domed stadiums in Japan are that type of construction.
    I wonder, though, if they’d withstand a tsunami.

    What I’m suggesting isn’t the typical Sports dome stadium as they are historically to flat, and to rectangular. Plus, their roofs are often made of fabric of some sort. A Rice Ball would be closer in shape. Or, better yet, a Sushi roll, with a round top for the taller buildings. It would be built out of concrete and steel. The entire roof would be concrete as well. They would still have to combine the design with what they’ve learned about building for Earthquakes.

    I’m sure that Japan can rebuild over the water to reclaim some land from the sea. I’m hoping that the nuclear reactors didn’t cause too much nuclear damage. I’m sure that Japan will be able to reclaim land from the sea again, like they did before. Perhaps, Japan will consider building a green roofs on top of their skyscrapers for vegetable gardens. There is many newer green initiatives that are better then nuclear reactors. However, I don’t know if the “gyroscope” type wind turbine, if placed on all the tall buildings, would produce the electricity needed. I know they would work in Chicago, Illinois, but not so sure about Japan given the density of the population.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

      You know about it well.
      Newly built buildings in Japan are built “earthquake resistant”…it was the tsunami that flattened the Miyagi Prefecture and Iwate Prefecture areas.
      Would that dome design withstand a tsunami?

      Like

  2. alice March 13, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    Glad to know that you and your family are safe. We are safe, too. My heart goes out to the people affected. Have your knapsacks of essentials ready.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

      Thanks.

      >Have your knapsacks of essentials ready.

      Yes, having an “earthquake kit” ready if you live in this area is a good idea.

      Like

      • alice March 14, 2011 at 12:02 am #

        Not just a knapsack of earthquake kit, but essential things like documents and cash as well.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 14, 2011 at 1:36 am #

        That’s good advice.

        Like

  3. Aunt Mary March 13, 2011 at 7:35 am #

    So happy to know you are are all okay! My thoughts and prayers are with you and all of Japan.
    Love and miss you
    Aunt Mary
    ps I just noticed your title..live with your three teenagers…aint it a blast! I hope you share yoyr music with them!

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 2:22 pm #

      >So happy to know you are are all okay!

      Yes, we’re fine. Thanks.

      It’s too bad that it took a “tragedy” for so many “friends and family” in America to visit my blog! Comment more often!

      >I hope you share yoyr music with them!

      They like very little of my type of music. Some of it though.
      My daughters enjoy movies as much as I do though…and we like the same movies!

      Like

      • Aunt Mary March 13, 2011 at 9:10 pm #

        Yes you’re right. I should be better at staying in touch 😦
        I will come to your blog now that I have subscribed to it. Now what is going on with this nuclear plants that we are hearing about? Are you affected by that where you live?

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 10:29 pm #

        >I will come to your blog now that I have subscribed to it.

        Good! 🙂
        And comment often. (But you may have noticed that I edited your comment a bit. I don’t like to put my or my family’s names online. You understand, I’m sure. Thanks.)

        >Are you affected by that (nuclear power plant disaster) where you live?

        So far, no. But if there’s a meltdown…who knows. 😦

        Like

  4. combsdac March 13, 2011 at 3:47 am #

    Was going to ask your mom whether you and your family were OK and found her e-mail with your blog when I opened my mail.
    Glad all’s well.
    David

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 3:54 am #

      Thank you. I was surprised to hear from you. How long has it been? Over twenty years at least.

      How have you been?

      Like

  5. Joe March 13, 2011 at 3:18 am #

    I’ve been soo worried about you and your family… I am glad you are safe… Your friend Joe

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 3:24 am #

      Thanks. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard from you.

      Tokyo’s fine…but northern Japan is a real mess.

      I don’t know how extensive the news coverage of this disaster is in other countries…but it’s been just about the only thing on the TV non-stop since it occurred.

      We’re watching the TV news at this moment actually.

      Like

  6. Mom March 13, 2011 at 2:22 am #

    We are so thankful to hear that you and your family are all okay! Thanks for sharing where you were and what it felt like when it all started-it had to be a very scary experience! I cannot even imagine! All the damage that I see online and on the news is terrible! The news is saying the death toll will be over 1000! most from north Japan. thank God that Tokyo was spared or that number would have been so much higher. I was glad to hear that the US is already sending help. stay in touch…love Mom

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 3:20 am #

      >All the damage that I see online and on the news is terrible! The news is saying the death toll will be over 1000!

      Yeah, it’s a real tragedy.

      Like

  7. daddypitbulldog March 12, 2011 at 9:15 pm #

    I hope you and you family are safe.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:27 pm #

      We are. Thanks for the concern.

      Like

  8. Jenny March 12, 2011 at 7:26 pm #

    Hi Glad u r ok, I go out to Tokyo every year(ueno) what is it like in that area please

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm #

      The Ueno area of Tokyo, just like the rest of the city, is fine.

      Basically, other than temporarily suspended cell-phone and train service, Tokyo didn’t have much damage at all.
      Thankfully.

      Like

  9. jaydeejapan March 12, 2011 at 5:03 pm #

    I was teaching a class when the earthquake struck. Being on the 4th floor in a somewhat old building is not fun. Like many people, I was stranded at work until late evening. I did eventually get home. Thankfully, no damage. Just things moved around a bit.

    At first, I thought it was just a regular earthquake we often feel around the Kanto area. I couldn’t believe it when it just kept getting stronger and wouldn’t stop! We had to help an 84 year old student down the stairs and out of the building. My coworker was shaking a lot. Normally, I’d shrug off an earthquake, but this was unbelievably big. I never thought I’d experience a megathrust earthquake.

    Glad things are fine with you. Just be prepared for possible blackouts.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

      Yeah, it was a pretty big earthquake in the Tokyo area…I can only imagine how it felt up north close to the epicenter.

      >Just be prepared for possible blackouts.

      There were a few brief blackouts in some parts of Tokyo yesterday…but our service was uninterrupted.
      But I guess there may be some because of the nuclear plant disaster.

      Like

  10. brilliantalex.cl@gmail.com March 12, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    I’m from China. I hope to represent most Chineses who are concerned this severely disaster to send our deepest condolence. Basic respect to life and genuine wish are required regardless the compliacted and controversial history between China and Japan. Every nationality is respecting as well as Ymato, We wish ur guys and ur counrty could quickly recover from the sepcter of the catastrophe. In the meanwhile, we could try our best to offer our helping.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 9:59 pm #

      >most Chineses who are concerned this severely disaster to send our deepest condolence.

      Thanks. It’s always a shame when people suffer a tragedy.

      >Every nationality is respecting as well as Ymato

      I assume you meant to type “Yamato” (大和)…the original name of the country of Japan.
      I have heard that people in China still call Japan by that name…is it true?

      Like

      • brilliantalex.cl@gmail.com March 13, 2011 at 9:40 am #

        SO sorry about that. The real reason to that situation is most chinese do not too much history about Japan including how exactly to call Japan. So we search it on website. And what should we exactly address ur nationality.Could u sent ur email? Coz I don’t always browse other’s blog,haha. I hope u wond’t mind it.

        Cheers

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 2:43 pm #

        No need to apologize.

        It’s true that China used to call Japan 「倭国」 (“Wa-koku”) or 「倭」 (“Yamato”) as a derogatory term.

        But Japan changed the writing to 「和」 for both.

        There are certain cases that Japanese still call this country 「大和」 (“Yamato”) and 「和」 “Wa”.

        I was just interested if Chinese people still use that name. And still in a derogatory way.

        Japan is called “Japan” in English (obviously) and in Japanese, official name: 「日本国」 (“Nihon-koku”)…commonly called 「日本」 (“Nippon”) or (“Nihon”).

        Like

      • brilliantalex.cl@gmail.com March 13, 2011 at 4:00 pm #

        No, we just call ur country Japan, nothing else. I just want to emphasize the word of nationality, so I searched it on google.And I found YAMATO once represented Japan. So I used it. I’ll change this call later on.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 13, 2011 at 4:08 pm #

        Well, as I said there are still cases that Japan is called 「大和」 (Yamato)…but it’s kind of hard to explain.

        It’s not rude or anything…so no need to worry.

        Like

  11. Metal Misfit March 12, 2011 at 9:03 am #

    What a tragedy. My thoughts & prayers go out to everyone affected by this earthquake & tsunami.

    I’m glad you and your family are safe!

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:21 am #

      Thanks. Yeah, it is a real tragedy.

      Like

  12. In10Words aka "Galileo" March 12, 2011 at 3:42 am #

    Thank goodness you’re okay! I hope the rest of the country recovers from this.

    Like

  13. carnetatlantique March 12, 2011 at 3:39 am #

    Thanks for the comment, and the clarification. We hope you and yours stay safe!

    Like

  14. Chris March 12, 2011 at 3:37 am #

    I’m glad you and yours are alright. As soon as I heard about this earthquake, my first thought was about you! I’m from the West Coast of the US, and I’ve been through my share of earthquakes. Never fun.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:19 am #

      Thanks for that.

      Yeah, earthquakes are the worst natural disaster of all…no warning!

      Like

  15. Mage Bailey March 12, 2011 at 1:58 am #

    Very glad you are ok.

    Like

  16. tornadoes28 March 12, 2011 at 1:09 am #

    Looks really bad from the TV news here in the States. Hope all is well. Sendai looks terrible.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:18 am #

      >Sendai looks terrible.

      It’s really bad up there! Hopefully they can rebuild quickly.

      Like

  17. RattRocker March 12, 2011 at 12:12 am #

    Hope all is well where you live, 8.9 soudns pretty scary. I ahve been in a couple earthquakes nbut I am off to school so I will comment those later.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      Yes, it was the worst recorded earthquake in Japan’s history!

      Like

      • RattRocker March 12, 2011 at 12:21 pm #

        Well I see that there are still pretty big aftershocks, I hope you guys are well, and about my experience with earthquakes. Whenever there is one I immediately jump and rush to a door frame, almost like a dog seeing a squirrel, I don’t know how I do it either. The biggest one I have been in was when I was young, so I can’t remember it, but the msot recent one that was large that I remember was c ouple years ago in the morning and it scared the heck out of me. I wonder how I would react to being in the shower during an earthquake with glass doors. Anyways I hope everything is well. One man has died in the US because he drowned in the surge that hit the coast of california. How bad are the fires are in Japan? What about the nuclear power plant?

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:20 pm #

        >Well I see that there are still pretty big aftershocks

        Yes, it was a huge earthquake so the aftershocks are still going.
        Actually there was a fairly big aftershock a minute ago.

        >I hope you guys are well

        We’re fine. Thanks.

        >Whenever there is one I immediately jump and rush to a door frame

        That’s probably a safe place.

        >How bad are the fires are in Japan? What about the nuclear power plant?

        I think all of the fires have been extinguished…but the nuclear plant is a new concern and it’s another potential massive disaster!!

        Like

      • RattRocker March 15, 2011 at 11:11 am #

        Man, a third reactor blew, I really hope no more go, stay safe and hopefully nothing else happens, I read today that there could be an aftershock even bigger than the original quake, that is pretty scary!

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 15, 2011 at 3:30 pm #

        >a third reactor blew

        Yes, there is a radiation leak. A few plant employees have been contaminated…hopefully no one else will be!

        Like

  18. cuteandcurls March 11, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

    I am glad to hear that you and your family are safe from harm. I am currently more worried about my friend in Miyagi right now. I wish there is a way I could find out as I dont even have her number. I can only hope and pray she, her husband and family are safe from harm and from the disaster. Im still glued to the telly watching the news and its horrific. I do hope Eric and his family are safe too out there in Sendai.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:16 am #

      I also have a friend from Miyagi Prefecuture (where the earthquake hardest), but thankfully his family’s OK.

      Hopefully your friend is too.

      Like

      • cuteandcurls March 12, 2011 at 12:17 pm #

        Thank you I hope she is fine too, I can only wait, hope and pray that she and her family are somewhere safe at a shelter. I just realised also one of my father’s close friend is at Iwate.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm #

        >my father’s close friend is at Iwate.

        Oh. 岩手県 (Iwate Prefecture) also suffered tremendously from the tsunami.

        Like

  19. Kytriya March 11, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    Here is an idea for when Japan rebuilds: Perhaps they should place their buildings at a diagonal to the coast line, so that the buildings are diamond shaped to the coast line. Round buildings also fare well. I’m not an architect or an engineer, but I lived in a geodesic dome that can get Tornado’s. If they could figure out how to combine the geodesic dome with their hurricane “proof” buildings, I think they’d come up with buildings that can survive almost anything. Then, if it was build out of stuff that doesn’t burn, they’ll survive that too.

    Glad everyone is safe.
    signed someone who had forgotten exactly where Tokyo was and wanted to know.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 11, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

      I’m not sure if that would help against a tsunami.

      >had forgotten exactly where Tokyo was

      Do you mean “where” in Japan? You don’t mean that you forgot which country Tokyo is in, do you?

      Like

      • Kytriya March 12, 2011 at 10:37 am #

        I forgot exactly where tokyo was in relationship to where the tsunami hit the hardest.

        A Geodesic dome is like half a golf ball used as a house. When a tornado hits it, the dome can absorb much of the shock. To date, no geodesic dome has ever been destroyed in a tornado. This isn’t true for other building types. I wouldn’t build it out of wood like they do in Minnesota, but I’d use the concept and build it out of concrete. There is a house this is a dome made out of concrete. They used a large bubble to get the shape. They have survived hurricanes and tornadoes where all the houses around them didn’t survive at all.

        When I said I had forgotten where Tokyo was, I meant the city in relationship to the other cities where the Tsunami had hit the worst. I had put Tokyo closer to the major damage. I’m thankful I was wrong as to its location.

        I’m thankful that many survived as it could have been alot worse.

        Like

      • Kytriya March 12, 2011 at 10:38 am #

        When they set up a fund where I live to send to Japan for aid, I’ll donate.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 9:53 pm #

        >I forgot exactly where tokyo was in relationship to where the tsunami hit the hardest.

        I see. Tokyo is a couple hours south by 新幹線 (bullet train).

        >A Geodesic dome is like half a golf ball used as a house. When a tornado hits it, the dome can absorb much of the shock.

        OK. Actually many of the domed stadiums in Japan are that type of construction.
        I wonder, though, if they’d withstand a tsunami.

        Like

      • tokyo5 March 12, 2011 at 9:54 pm #

        >When they set up a fund where I live to send to Japan for aid, I’ll donate.

        Very kind of you.

        Like

  20. tokyo5 March 11, 2011 at 11:02 pm #

    It’s 11:00PM in Tokyo and another big after-shock just struck!
    When will it end? 😦

    Like

  21. bartman905 March 11, 2011 at 10:44 pm #

    Just heard the news this morning in Canada, glad that you and your family are safe. Thoughts and prayers to those who died and are missing. We actually had a family trip planned (should have arrived in Tokyo on Thursday) but I had to cancel due to work commitments – wow!

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 11, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

      >those who died and are missing.

      The death toll has gone up to 90 so far.

      Parts of the Tohoku area of Japan (Sendai, Iwate, etc) has been devastated by the earthquake and tsunami.

      I guess it’s a good thing your trip here was canceled.

      Like

  22. askkorean1 March 11, 2011 at 9:17 pm #

    Next stop Hawaii and California.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 11, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

      Hopefully it’ll die down before it hits anymore land.

      Like

  23. jacob March 11, 2011 at 9:16 pm #

    6.2 where I am living and 5.3 today at the school where i was teaching. Madness..

    Like

  24. Sven March 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Good to hear you’re OK!

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 11, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

      Yes, thankfully it wasn’t as strong here as it was up north.

      Like

  25. gigihawaii March 11, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Terrible! I am relieved that you and your family are okay and not harmed in any way. I hope Hawaii is spared; a tsunami is expected to hit us at 3 am Friday. My house is located near Pearl Harbor, but is on top of a hill, so we are safe. But all coastal areas are being evacuated.

    Like

    • tokyo5 March 11, 2011 at 8:48 pm #

      Hopefully the tsunami won’t hit Hawaii (or anywhere else). People often under-estimate the power of tidal waves.

      Like

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