Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Safe(r) in Osaka!

We arrived in Osaka this morning after 7 am. Our arrival was delayed by...

You guessed it... Another earthquake!

After Takashi-san and C-chan, Joan`s farmer friends, dropped us off at the bus office in Shinjuku, we met with Kristina and Tim, who were also going to Osaka to visit friends. Kristina is a fellow teacher at Asia University, and they, too, had been looking for an excuse to get out of town. A night express bus in business class seats didn`t sound like a bad way to travel, and it would get us there relatively cheaply and efficiently.

We arrived somewhat early, so there was an hour or so of just hanging around in the basement waiting room - of a 54-story skyscraper, mind you...

Suddenly, there was that becoming all-too-familiar wiggle underfoot. The whole room, with probably close to 100 people, suddenly became silent as everyone looked around. The shaking got stronger, and some staggered a little. The hanging light fixtures started to sway. People began to make those little movements that showed they were seriously considering diving under the benches and tables. It was a looooooong moment....

It eventually subsided, and there was an audible sigh. Conversations started again with some nervous laughter.

Apparently it was 6.0 earthquake in the Shikouku area, southwest of Tokyo, onshore and directly in our path to Osaka. Up until now, most of the significant ones have been out to sea, and NONE have been in the Shikouku area. Reports later said that there had been some injuries and damage, but nothing too serious.

We left on time but were delayed in the night during the drive due to unknown conditions that were being assessed. Quite a nerve racking way to start our trip and perhaps further reinforcement that we kind of wanted to get out of town.

And let me tell you, being outside for the large earthquake on Friday was no way near as scary as being in the basement of that tall skyscraper. Your mind can really get you twisted up.

First thing on our cold, sunny morning in Osaka, we found a Starbucks and gratefully settled in chairs, sipping coffee and checking new reports via iPhone. Kristina and Tim left to go meet their friends, and Joan, on crutches, and I limped to the subway station to head to Nakatsu, Seth and Haruna`s nearest station.

With me carrying two biggish backpacks - one in front and one in back - and Joan on crutches, we were a slow, painful pair. That is one reason why I had wanted to leave Tokyo under our own volition. If there was any kind of panic or evacuation (which I 99.9% don`t think will happen), there was NO WAY I wanted to deal with that with Joan on crutches.

It has been very pleasant to hang out with Seth today at their apartment while Haruna is at work. It has allowed us to relax and get our heads straight. Sitting around in our apartment, watching all the disaster porn on the Internet and having the same nervous conversation with fellow teachers time and time again was really getting to us. Even though Osaka is probably just as likely to have an earthquake as any other random place in Japan, it is a welcome change.

We are not sure how long we are going to stay here. My university hopes to start up on time, which means the end of the month for me. However, with the reactors in Fukushima, unreliable electricity, gasoline, food and toilet paper supplies, and the whole earthquake/tsunami situation, everything is up in the air. We`ll just have to see how it goes for now.

For those who don`t know Seth and Haruna, he is the son of friends near where we lived in Michigan. He has lived in Japan for a total of almost four years. Haruna is his girlfriend who he met at Antioch college in Yellow Springs, Ohio; she is from Osaka.

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