The actual shake was a very very big shake. It began softly but just kept building and building in intensity. It seemed to last for several minutes. Shortly after the quake people were panicked. An elderly couple crashed their car in front of my office and I had to pull the old lady out of the back seat. She had a broken shoulder and could not speak from shock. It took several hours for the ambulance to come.
I live in Shinjuku, Tokyo and work in Meguro ward. I had to walk several kms across the city on Friday night home and witnessed the packed streets, massive traffic jams, the emergency centres full of people wrapped in silver foil blankets, salarymen with company-issued hard hats walking home, and the empty convenience stores and supermarkets, as food quickly disappeared from shelves. The general mood on Friday afternoon was panic and uncertainty—while Friday night, in spite of the crowded city, was a surreal melancholic calm.
The next 24 hours were pretty tense with public transportation suspended, communications down, food supplies limited, and the threat of a nuclear meltdown at a nearby power plant. We were also being constantly shaken by powerful aftershocks. I imagine very few people slept on Friday night, as they were constantly on edge to run outside with pre-packed survival bags at any moment. We were also tormented by the media images of the devastation just north of us that we couldn't do anything to help. All that being said, though I am safe. My friends are safe and my house has very little damage. Tokyo was mostly left unscathed, with just a few areas where buildings collapsed and fires started. The injuries and deaths in Tokyo were few. The biggest problem here had been countering the panic and rumours that have spread so quickly and made people feel insecure. I spent most of yesterday on FB and in front of Japanese television trying to counter the rumour mill, which was going crazy as people, often non-Japanese-speaking foreigners, were caught up in a web of mis-information and fear.
I had been organizing a charity event for the Christchurch Earthquake appeal for this evening, but unfortunately had to postpone it, as things are still critical here.
My thoughts are entirely with the people up north now. Am looking forward to seeing what we can do to help in the coming days, weeks and months ahead.