Tokyo Residents speak-up on earthquake, nuclear situation

3 years ago by in Travel Tagged:

“Where were you when the 9.0 earthquake struck Japan?”

Every Tokyo resident, especially those with contacts abroad, was inevitably asked this question after the most powerful earthquake to have hit Japan rattled the nation on Friday, March 11. A number of local urbanites couldn’t just sit back and absorb the news being altered, twisted and bounced back to them by the foreign media. Instead, some have chosen to reach out and help shape these news stories with personal accounts of the quake and how this expansive megapolis transitions back to business-as-usual.

The initial frenzy and uncertainty regarding the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant coupled with foreign embassies issuing travel alerts pushed numerous Japanese and foreign residents to leave Tokyo for short to extended time periods. Below you’ll find a variety of first-hand observations and stories Tokyo residents have shared with the international news media post-quake:

Kristen Moon (USA), 26, an English teacher and resident of Tokyo for three years now, also had the misfortune of being in New Zealand during its 6.3-magnitude earthquake in February. This time in Tokyo, Moon was on the train when things started shaking up like never before. She and her boyfriend Guy Naftalin (UK) eventually decided to briefly fly out to Moon’s hometown Downingtown, Pennsylvania as tensions continued rising over the damaged reactors.

Watch Moon and Nafttalin’s video interview and article with "Daily Local News of Chester County" to learn details about their earthquake experience and aftermath:

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Martin Garnes, 28, a Tokyo resident for three years working as a recruiter, returned to his native Norway for a couple weeks after the quake. He immediately put his time to good use by raising support for Second Harvest Japan, a non-profit food bank.

Watch Martin’s video interview with Norwegian regional news outlet “Addressa” and the accompanying article on his social media efforts to raise money for Second Harvest (Note: Images + Google Translate transcend language barriers!):

The Second Harvest Facebook page Garnes created to raise funds from both his Norwegian contacts and the international community at large can be found at:

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Chiaki Maruyama, 30, a native of Japan who spent part of her childhood in Belgium, tightly gripped the hands of a fellow coworker while taking refuge under her work desk during the minutes of rough shaking. She candidly shared her raw emotions and thoughts the day after the quake with the French-speaking national broadcasting organization of Brussels, Radio Télévision Belge Francophone (RTBF).

Listen here for Chiaki Maryuyama’s intense phone interview [in French] with RTBF:

Rough translation of Maruyama’s phone interview from French:

Q. How has life changed after the quake?
A. It has changed a lot. I am scared to go to work and to use the train. The supermarket currently has no water and bread to sell. The streets are deserted – a female friend of mine just sent me a picture of a deserted street in the Ginza…I’m scared of going outside because the nuclear plant might explode. The government is telling us that there is no danger.

Q. Is the government telling the people how dangerous it is?
A. They haven’t mention that it is dangerous yet.

Q. Are you worried?
A. I am very worried. I wish I could evacuate somewhere abroad but cannot because I cannot leave my family.

Q. Do you think the government is giving you all enough information on what’s going on at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant?
A. They give us information but not all the information. That is why I follow the news in French and English – because they give us more information than the Japanese government.


Brian Chapman, 31, a freelancer / former writer for The Daily Yomiuri and Tokyo resident for eight years, immediately reached out to news outlets back in his native Oregon. One video skype interview was televised on KVAL News, the CBS affiliate of Eugene. Chapman continues to document the changes he’s finding in Tokyo mainly through photography and writing. The photos in this blogpost were taken by Chapman around Tokyo Station within hours of the earthquake and of Tokyo Tower, a modern symbol of Japan’s capital.

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Pay phone queue at Tokyo Station, March 11, Quake night. Brian Chapman Photo.

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Bullet train passengers stuck in Tokyo Station for the night, March 11, Quake night. Brian Chapman Photo.

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Cell phones out of service – more lines at pay phones, March 11, Quake night. Brian Chapman Photo.

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Tokyo Tower now bent at the spire, March 13. Brian Chapman Photo.

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Up close & personal, March 13. Brian Chapman Photo.

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Supermoon peaking at dusk, March 13. Brian Chapman Photo.