Yesterday was an eventful day. I ended up on the special observation deck of Tokyo Tower during the worst Japanese earthquake in recent history. It sounds completely horrific, and in some ways it was, but it wasn’t anywhere near as frightening as it could have been.
I hadn’t planned to be there. What I did want to do was buy Heinz Baked Beans. Norwin and I met Marty for lunch in Roppongi Hills and afterwards I wanted to walk to one of the international supermarkets. I crave beans and not many places in Tokyo sell them. Taking a visitor to a supermarket, especially one selling food he can buy whenever he wants, seemed rather a dull thing to do. I remembered that the tower was only about 10 minutes or so from there and we decided to visit that first.
We bought tickets, walked around the main observation deck, and waited until our number was called. It’s Japan. We queue for everything. And this was an organised place with a numbering system to let us know when it was our turn to catch the lift to the special observation deck. I didn’t enjoy the lift. It was shaking and it made me feel uneasy. But the member of staff working in the lift wasn’t reacting so I assumed that it was normally a shaky ride.
We stepped out of the lift on to what felt like the deck of a ship. Everything was swaying and my first thought was that it was the wind. But people were lurching around and then sitting on the floor. I couldn’t walk straight, and after a bit of pretending I was fine, decided to sit on the floor. At that stage I knew it was an earthquake. At first Norwin was excited because it was a new experience for him and he assumed that it was a minor quake. But the tower kept shaking. We started to make jokes, as you do, and waited for the shaking to stop. I noticed that some people around me were crying quietly, but the shaking stopped.
We got up and walked around a bit. We couldn’t leave because the lift stopped working and the stairs were outside and unsafe. We started talking to the other foreigners, and then the shaking started again. This time I was frightened. Outside the traffic had stopped, there was a fire in Odaiba, crowds of people were being evacuated, but inside there was no panic. There was a group of nursery school children sitting quietly against the wall. The staff were apologizing but they were calm. We chatted, we joked, talked about where we came from, and waited. There was no point in doing anything else.
I think that we were there for around an hour and a half. It’s hard to be sure. I know that it was an hour before I managed to send a text message to Marty. But time moved strangely. I know that we got in the lift, had to walk down 600 steps, and that staff from the tower were waiting to give us a refund, but that whole part of the afternoon is vague in my mind. My one goal was to get out of the tower. I have never been more relieved to get out of a building.
(Norwin is ahead of me with blogging and has a written up our day complete with pictures.)