The blog of Tokyo based photographer and photojournalist, Damon Coulter

Remembering That Afternoon

Japanese earthquake March 11th 2011 Japanese earthquake March 11th 2011 Japanese earthquake March 11th 2011 Japanese earthquake March 11th 2011 Japanese earthquake March 11th 2011 Japanese earthquake March 11th 2011

Three years ago today, at 2:46 on a Friday afternoon, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck the Tohoku region of north east Japan.

I was out in Tokyo that day, walking around Mejiro when the building started to wobble and shake violently. It was obvious something big had happened, what I didn’t know then, and what I wouldn’t be able to find out for several hours after, was just where it had struck and how big it actually was.

The scenes I saw and the people I have spoken to in Tohoku since that day have deeply moved me. Yet if I am honest it is that afternoon in Tokyo that is clearest in my memory. Wandering the streets in a community of forced pedestrians all calmly looking for a way out of the place and all similarly unsure what or where the bad news was. People checked phones for information but many were not working. Those outside watched buildings away in the aftershocks, those inside, in cafes and mobile phone shops or banks, train stations and hotel lobbies, served massive crowds of customers without anger, making room for stranded salarymen to get a seat on the floor, charge their phone; sneak a view of a TV screen perhaps and drink a coffee to keep them warm.

There was fear but no panic and it was a truly humbling experience to see so many millions of people carry-on without complaint, despite the very real stress they were under.

I will never forget it. just as I will never forget the almost 20,000 people who died that afternoon too.

I am unable to head north this day to give my wishes directly to those that survive them but I will stop what I’m doing for a minute at 2:46 today to those that I will never be able to meet.

Damon

 

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