Posts Tagged ‘Japan’

Golden week is a great time to be in Japan as you get many days off. I decided to go on a day trip to Hakone.

Getting there

The best way to visit Hakone is to get the Hakone Free Pass from Odakyu Railways. You can choose either a two-day Pass for 5000 Yen or a three-day Pass for 5500 Yen. The Pass includes one round trip from Shinjuku to Odawara and then, inside the Hakone Free Area, you can use any of the Odakyu transport facilities unlimited number of times. Even if you want to do just a day-trip like me you have to get the two-day Pass.

Travelling around Hakone

The Hakone Free Pass lets you travel on five different modes of transport – Hakone Tozan Train, Hakone Tozan Cable Car, Hakone Ropeway, Hakone Sightseeing Cruise and the different Hakone buses. There are scenic places to see as you travel on most of these routes. The best ones for me were the ride on the Hakone Ropeway and the Sightseeing Cruise on the Pirate Ship. I did the standard travel around Hakone I think. I started at Hakone Yumoto and took the Tozan Railway to Gora, the Cable Car from Gora to Sounzan, the Ropeway from Sounzan to Togendai, the Sightseeing Boat from Togendai to Hakone-Machi, walked from Hakone-Machi to Moto-Hakone and finally took the bus back to Hakone Yumoto. I’ll write a little about some of the things I enjoyed most in the trip.

Hakone Open Air Museum

On our way from Hakone-Yumoto to Gora, I stopped at Chokokunomori where the Hakone Open Air Museum is located. The Entry Fee to the museum is 1600 Yen usually, but if you have the Hakone Free Pass you get a discount of 200 Yen. The museum is quite unique as it is an open air museum. This was the first time I was in an open air museum. Most of the sculptures were placed in the open with nature as the backdrop so the view was quite amazing. I really liked the below statue and three others that were close to it as they overlooked a valley.

Statue

Hakone Open Air Museum

As with many art galleries and museums there were a lot of paintings and sculptures of nude people – mostly women. I don’t think I’m a very artistic person. Many of the paintings and sculptures looked disproportional to me. Either the head was too big or the body was too big or something was just shaped funny. My friend said that I didn’t know how to appreciate art!

Art - Apparently

Hakone Open Air Museum

Face

Hakone Open Air Museum

Ropeway and Owakudani

From Sounzan I took the ropeway. The ropeway is a one-stop trip. On route to Lake Ashi, you have to stop at Owakudani and transfer to another ropeway. The views from the ropeway are amazing. The ropeway climbs up from Sounzan and just before reaching Owakudani it goes across a huge valley. I think this part of the ropeway is the most awesome one. After you transfer to the next ropeway at Owakudani it’s all downhill from there.

Stone

Volcanic Vapour at Owakudani

Owakudani is an interesting place. It is a volcanic valley with active sulphur vents and hot springs. They have a unique tradition of eating ‘black eggs’ here. Normal eggs are placed inside the hot springs which boils the eggs and also turns the outside shell black because of the sulphur in the springs. The inside of the egg still tastes the same so it’s safe to eat. The place has a pungent smell, again because of the sulphur. Owakudani also offers some great views of Mt. Fuji on a clear day.

Egg

Egg Boiled in the Volcanic Hot Springs at Owakudani

Volcanic Pond

A Hot Spring at Owakudani

Lake Ashi

The sightseeing cruise from Togendai to Hakone-Machi on Lake Ashi was really fun. The views of the lake and the surrounding areas, especially the mountains were brilliant. The cruise boat I took from Togendai which was included in the Hakone free pass was themed like a pirate ship. It was pretty cool.

Pirate Ship 1

Pirate Ship in Lake Ashi

Cedar Avenue and Hakone Shrine

From Hakone-Machi I walked to Moto-Hakone along the Cedar Avenue. It’s a nice and quiet walk with cedar trees lined on both sides. Once you reach Moto-Hakone if you walk a little further, you’ll find the Hakone Shrine. Like most Japanese shrines, there are torii gates at certain places on the road indicating that a shrine is present somewhere close. The shrine is on top of a small hill, as usual. As soon as you exit the shrine, if you cross the road, there is a torii in the lake and there is a small pathway along the lake from this torii. This path is also nice to walk on.

Way

Hakone

Once done, I took the bus back to Hakone Yumoto, and then took the train to Shinjuku. The train ride from Odawara to Shinjuku is about 90 minutes and at the end of the day it felt like a long ride. I think there are more things to do in Hakone and staying there for two days is definitely good. But going on a day trip is fun too, as you can see all the important places even if you do it at a leisurely pace.

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Last week I went Bungee Jumping. Yes, that’s right!! Bungee Jumping!! It was scary and fun at the same time. Though I’ve seen it so many times on TV, I’ve never really thought about doing it.

Minakami

The place we did it was Minakami, a small scenic town in Gunma Prefecture. Minakami is about 150 Kilometers from Tokyo. The easiest way to get there is taking the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Jomo-Kogen which is about 75 Minutes and then taking a bus to Minakami which will be another 10 minutes. But as we wanted to go cheap, we took the local trains to Minakami.

Tokyo –> Ueno –> Takasaki –> Minakami

The travel time was around three hours and the total cost for the round trip was 5880 Yen. By Shinkansen to Jomo-Kogen it would cost you 10480 Yen for a round trip. Minakami is a really beautiful place. There are some beautiful rivers running through the area and there are also many mountains surrounding the town.

River

River in Minakami

Once you get to Minakami you can take a bus to the bungee jumping place. The cost is 320 Yen. We had booked the 1 PM slot for bungee jumping but got to Minakami by 10 AM, so we decided to walk from Minakami to the bungee jumping bridge. It’s not a long walk, it only took us about 40 minutes to get there even though we stopped at many places to take pictures.

Mountain

Mountains around Minakami

Bungee Jumping

The Bungee Jumping place is a bridge that crosses the Tonegawa river. Their website claims that this is Japan’s only bridge bungee jumping. It is a 42 metre jump (137 feet). You have to first register yourself at their small office where they will check your weight and also ask you to fill out a form that says that they can’t be held responsible for accidents. Once you’re done with this you’re ready for the jump. You have to make sure that you don’t have any loose objects in your pockets. They strap a harness to your hips and another one to your feet. The bungee cord is connected to both the harnesses. So there is double protection I guess.

Standing at the edge of the platform and looking down is one of the scariest feelings ever. Knowing that in a few seconds you are going to jump of that bridge is frightening. They again check that all the equipments are ready and then give a count down – 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 bungeeeee and it’s time for you to jump. I jumped off straight away. The few seconds that I was in the air were really scary and fun. I screamed at the top of my lungs. When you’re done they lower you onto a small inflatable raft boat waiting below in the river.

Bungee Blog

Anbu – Bungee Jumping

The photo above is my friend Anbu doing his jump. Of the four of us that went bungee jumping that day, he did the best jump I think, so I’ve got his photo in my blog. Below is a photo of my jump.

Bungee 3

My Jump

The cost for jumping once is 7500 Yen and if you want to jump a second time immediately or any time within that year it is 4000 Yen. They give you a certificate in honour of your bravery. You can also get the photos of the jump from their photographer for 2500 Yen if you like. It’s worth paying them for the pictures because the photos they took were really amazing. The people who own ‘Bungy Japan’ are nice and friendly. You can find more details about Bungy Japan here.

Tanikawa-Dake

After the bungee jump we decided to go to Tanikawa-Dake.  We got a package from Minakami for 2800 Yen which includes a round trip from Minakami to Tanikawa-Dake by bus and also a round trip on the cable car up and down the mountain. The bus ride from Minakawa to Tanikawa-Dake is 20 minutes. It’s been a couple of months since the end of winter so I never imagined that there would be snow on top. While going on the bus itself we could see a bit of snow but when we got on the cable car and went up there were people snowboarding there. I was totally unprepared for snow and was just wearing my sweater so I didn’t really go out much.

Rope car 2

Cable car in Tanikawa-Dake

The view from the cable car was really nice. I think I’m scared of heights. As we went up I tried not to look down too much. On top they have a nice coffee shop where you can sit and enjoy the scenery but unfortunately there was too much mist and fog that day. While coming back it was snowing heavily. But I didn’t complain because it felt a lot safer as I couldn’t see much.

Rope Car View

View from the Cable car – Tanikawa-Dake

It was quite a fun trip. But the travel time was long. We travelled almost eight hours if you include the bus travel times also. But it was worth it I would say.

Have you ever been bungee jumping?

Hama Rikyu Garden

Hama Rikyu is a large garden located in Tokyo. It’s a nice place to just walk around and spend time. Getting there is quite easy. It’s very close to the JR Shimbashi station. It takes about 10 minutes by walk from the station to the Park. The nearest entrance is the Otemon Gate. Admission to the garden is 300 Yen. There is nothing specific to really see in the garden but the environment is really nice as the surrounding area is full of huge buildings but the garden is green and peaceful. There are a number of small ponds in the garden.

Trees

Hama Rikyu Garden

There is a tea house somewhere in the middle called ‘Nakajima no ochaya’. It’s really beautiful to see the reflection of the trees in pond from here. If interested you can also go for a boat ride from the garden. One way to Asakusa costs 720 Yen. You can also do a round trip back to the garden for around 1300 Yen. I didn’t go for the boat ride that day as I had planned to go to the Rainbow Bridge afterwards.

Boat House

Nakajima no ochaya

The Rainbow Bridge

The Rainbow Bridge is an iconic structure in Tokyo. It crosses the northern Tokyo Bay between Shibaura Pier and Odaiba. It’s a nice walk across the bridge and there are amazing views on either side. To get to the bridge you can walk from the Tamachi station. It’s almost a straight walk of about 15-20 minutes from the station to the Shibaura anchorage of the bridge. From here you can take an elevator to the 7th floor. Admission is free to walk across the bridge. You’ll have to decide which side of the bridge you want to see. The north side has the Tokyo tower, sky tree and many skyscrapers. The south side has many shipping yards and you could see Mt. Fuji on a clear day. I walked on the north side both while going and coming back.

Bridge - Sun

The Rainbow Bridge

The span of the bridge is 798 metres but the actual walk to the other side of the bridge is almost two kilometres. Once you reach the odaiba side of the bridge there is a small garden where you can sit and relax for a bit before walking back. I went at around 5 PM so by the time I walked back it was around 7. The view of Tokyo city in the night is absolutely amazing. The lights in the buildings and the Tokyo tower are brilliant in the night. I think I’m quite privileged to live in this city.

Tokyo Tower from Rainbow Bridge

Tokyo Tower from Rainbow Bridge

Though I tried really hard I couldn’t get a single good photo of the night view of the city. My camera simply didn’t have it in it. But I got one decent photo of the Tokyo tower before sunset. It was also nice to see the boats and small ships that wandered the Tokyo bay.

Ship

Boat in the Tokyo Bay

 

Cherry blossoms (also called Sakura in Japan) have started blooming a couple of weeks earlier than usual this year. I went to the Ueno Park so I could see the cherry blossoms. The Park is just outside the Ueno JR Station and entry to the park is free. Though I’ve been to Japan many times, this was my first time seeing the cherry blossoms. The whole park was filled with these flowers. It was especially beautiful to walk through some of the pathways that have the cherry blossom trees on both sides.

Sakura - White

Sakura at the Ueno Park

There were two types of cherry blossoms at this Park. One was white whereas the other one was pink. There were a lot more of the white flowers.

Sakura - Pink

Sakura at the Ueno Park

Ueno Park is a great place to spend time. This time of the year is really good because of the Sakura. The Park also has other attractions like some Museums and a Zoo. Since I had been to some of the Museums before, this time I went to the Zoo. One thing to take note of is the fact that the Museums and the Zoo have free entry on certain days of the year and luckily for me, entry to the Zoo was free this day!

Sakura at the Ueno Park

Sakura at the Ueno Park

The Main attraction at the Zoo is the two Giant Pandas that have been brought from China. Since it was one of those free entrance days, the zoo was quite crowded and I had to wait for about thirty minutes to see the Pandas.

Ueno Zoo

Ueno Zoo

The number of animals in the zoo is quite limited. But it’s definitely worth paying a visit once. Coming from India, I found it interesting that they had cows and goats in the zoo. The birds section and the little mammals section had a good collection of animals.

Ueno Zoo

Ueno Zoo

Ueno Zoo

Ueno Zoo

Apart from the Zoo and the Museums there are also some shrines around this area. They sell a lot of traditional Japanese food near the Bentendo Temple. The smell of food is so amazing here.

Bentendo Temple

Bentendo Temple

Ueno Park

Ueno Park

I’m planning to go to the Shinjuku Park next week so I can see the cherry blossoms there too. Where are you planning to see the Sakura this year?

ENOSHIMA AND KAMAKURA

Posted: March 17, 2013 in Japan
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Enoshima is a small island in the city of Fujisawa and Kamakura is an old historic sightseeing area. There are a lot of beaches around this area as well. I had heard about Kamakura and when I looked up what places to see in Kamakura, I realized that Enoshima is also quite close and it makes sense to see both places in a single trip.

Getting There

The best way to see Kamakura and Enoshima is to get the Enoshima-Kamakura Free Pass. The Pass costs you 1430 Yen and it includes one round trip from Shinjuku to Fujisawa and then unlimited rides on both the Enoden Line between Fujisawa and Kamakura and the Odakyu Railways between Fujisawa and Katase-Enoshima. The pass can be bought at Shinjuku. We took the Odakyu Express line from Shinjuku to Fujisawa which is about a one hour ride. Then at Fujisawa, which is the last station we changed to the local Odakyu train and reached Katase-Enoshima.

Enoshima

The Enoshima Island is about a 15 minute walk from this station. The Katase Enoshima station has a unique structure. It is apparently designed to evoke the image of Ryūgū-jō, or Dragon Palace, the underwater dwelling in the Urashima Taro fable. The view of Mt. Fuji from the long bridge that connects Enoshima island to the mainland was amazing.

Fuji

Mt. Fuji from the bridge to Enoshima

On the Enoshima island we visited the main complex of the Enoshima Shrine. There is no entrance fee for this place. It was interesting to see people washing their money (coins) at the shrine’s pond and then offering it to the statue of a god there.

Enoshima Shrine

Enoshima Shrine

Then we walked back to the Enoshima station, which is about a 10-15 minute walk from the Katase Enoshima Station. From here we took the Enoden line (also called the Enoshima Electric Railway) to Hase. This train ride is quite nice. It is like a tram system that runs through the town and along the coast. The view of the beach from the train is really good.

Enoshima shrine statue

Enoshima Shrine

Kamakura

At Hase there is a temple called Hasedara that we visited. Admission is 300 Yen for this place. The complex is very good. It has a beautiful garden with different types of trees and flowers. There was one Sakura tree that had already blossomed. The complex also houses a huge shrine at the top. You can get a good view of the city and the beaches from here. There is also a small cave inside this place.

Hase Temple

Hasedara Garden

Then we went to see the Great Buddha of Kamakura also called the ‘Kamakura Daibutsu’. It is a bronze statue of Buddha which stands in the grounds of Kotokuin Temple. The height of the statue is 13.35 metres. This statue was built in 1252, so it is a very important national monument for Japan. Admission to this site is 200 Yen and it’s another 20 Yen to go inside the statue.

Hase - Buddha

The Great Buddha of Kamakura

Next we went to the Kamakura station. While we were looking for directions in a map outside the Train station, a kind Japanese man asked us if we needed help. I told him that we were looking for Tsurugaoka Hachimangu. Then he pulled out an English Map of Kamakura which showed all the important places that are in and around Kamakura. I later found that this map is available in this website also. We visited the Tsurugaoka Hachimangu Shrine. This is apparently Kamakura’s most important shrine. The road leading to the shrine is quite nice. It’s a long road with a couple of Torii gates along the way. As with many other shrines, this shrine is also on top of a small hill.

Road

Pathway to Myohon-Ji Shrine

The final place we visited was the Myohon Ji Shrine. This was a really cool place. There weren’t many people here so it was nice and quiet. The architecture of this shrine looked a bit different from all the other shrines we had visited. The shrine complex also had a graveyard. This was the only shrine where the graveyard wasn’t blocked off.

Myohon-Ji

Gateway of the Myohon-Ji Shrine

There are a number of other shrines also around the Kamakura region that we didn’t visit. From Kamakura we took the Enoden line back to Fujisawa and then the Odakyu Express line to Shinjuku. It was exciting to see all these places in a single day but it was quite long and tiresome too. The weather was pleasant, so that was helpful.

Have you been to any of these places?

TOKYO TOWER AND ZOJOJI TEMPLE

Posted: March 9, 2013 in Japan
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Last week I finally got to visit the Tokyo tower. The Tokyo tower stands at 333 metres and is the second tallest structure in Japan. The view from there was absolutely amazing.  On route to the Tokyo tower I also visited the Zojoji temple which is a Buddhist Shrine.

Getting there

There are a few stations that are quite close to the Tokyo tower. But I took the Yamanote line to Hamamatsucho station and walked from there. It’s almost a straight road from the station to the Tokyo Tower

Zojoji temple

Entrance fee: No entrance fee, it’s free!

The Zojoji temple comes before the Tokyo Tower when you walk from the Hamatsucho Station. It is the main temple of the Jodo sect of Japanese Buddhism in the Kanto Region. Interestingly, though this temple was originally built around 1400, it was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War. So all buildings except the Sangedatsu Mon which is the main gate, are re-constructions.

Zojoji 2

The Main Hall

There is a Main Hall which is somewhere in the middle and some other smaller buildings around it. When I was there they were performing some Buddhist ritual in the main hall. People were sitting in lines and they had a small drum kind of thing next to them. Then when the ritual started they uniformly started banging the drums in rhythmic manner. It was quite interesting. There was a message board that said that we’re not allowed to take pictures during the ceremony. In all other places you are free to take photographs as you please.

Zojoji

Sangedatsu Mon – The Main Gate

Behind the Temple there were some graves but access was restricted to this part of the compound. In another building next to the Main hall there were some other Buddhist statues and they were also selling souvenirs. I mostly never buy these kind of souvenirs in Japan. They are simple overpriced. Chopsticks or a small key chain for 500 Yen? – No Thank You!!

Tokyo Tower

Entrance fee

Main Observatory: 820 Yen
Special Observatory: 600 Yen (total 1420 Yen)

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

The Tokyo Tower is just behind the Temple. To go up to the main observatory the cost is 820 Yen. Once you reach the main observatory, you can get another ticket to go to the special observatory if you want. There is a waiting time of about 45 minutes after you get the ticket at the main observatory to go to the special one. But you can use that time to take a look at things from the main observatory. The main observatory is at 150 metres and the special observatory is at 250 metres. The best time to go is probably in the evening at about 5-6 PM so you can watch the sunset and also view the city in the night. Tokyo looks really beautiful in the night. There is a place in the main observatory from where you can look straight down. It is a glass floor and you can look straight down through it. You can also stand on it. Though you know it is probably a really strong glass it does feel a bit scary because if it breaks, it’s a 150 metre drop. But the chances of that happening are nil.

Sun

View from the Main Observatory of the Tokyo Tower

On the way back I had ビーフカツカレー (Beef Cutlet Curry) at Coco Ichibanya Curry House  – one of my favourite food dishes from one of my favourite restaurants in Japan.

Have you been to the Tokyo Tower or the Zojoji temple?

RANDOM TEMPLE NEAR SHINJUKU

Posted: February 23, 2013 in Japan
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Got lost looking for Ongakukan Studio in Shinjuku today. But I found this!!

Random Temple

BACK IN TOKYO

Posted: February 22, 2013 in Japan
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It’s almost a month since I came back to Tokyo. I thought I should write about my thoughts so far. Coming back to Tokyo this time has been different from the previous three times. I usually am quite excited the first few weeks and then everything becomes normal. But this time around I think I got some sort of a culture shock and weather shock too. The usual excitement was replaced by thoughts of whether I made the right decision about coming to Japan in the first place.

Coming straight into a Japanese winter from Chennai isn’t such a great idea. It was nice and warm at about 25 Deg Celsius when I left Chennai. December-January is definitely the best time to be in Chennai. It’s not really Winter, but you can say it’s the ‘Not So Hot’ time of the year. Every month other than that is just one season to me – ‘Summer’. But it’s quite literally freezing here in Tokyo now. Windy days are the worst. It even snowed a couple of times. It’s always beautiful to see snow. It’s not very often that I get to see snow as I’m from Chennai, so I enjoy the sight of snow a lot.

Balcony

Fuji san from my balcony

My company had sent a Japanese colleague to pick me and my friend who was also travelling to Japan with me from the Airport. We got to go from the Airport to my apartment in a car on the highway. Though that doesn’t sound that exciting, it is to me in Japan. The train lines are so convenient here that travelling by car is quite rare. I’ve only travelled by car like less than five times in all the time I’ve lived in Japan.

Going back to work in a Japanese office was also some sort of a challenge. It has taken me a couple of weeks to get used to things here. One of my friends said that it was culture shock and I’ll get used to it. It’s always fascinating to see that everyone in the office is working almost the entire time that they are there. I mean I don’t know if they are working, but they are definitely staring at their computers all the time and if they do talk to each other, it’s about work. Back in Chennai, the work environment is more relaxed. The thing is, whether it is Japan or India, the work to be done is the same for me, but I’d definitely prefer chatting with friends about all sorts of things while doing the job. In Chennai Friday evenings are super relaxed. There will be a few people leaving early because they are going to their native towns for the weekend. My company usually has a one hour event like thing in the evening on Fridays where they either play a documentary or someone gives a talk about some general topic (not related to work). Nothing of that sort in Japan. Friday evening 6 PM – everyone is still in the their seats working, 7 PM – still working.. by 7 30 I was ready to leave in a bit of shock actually. But really understanding and accepting that this is how work is going to be here helps a lot in getting over the culture shock.

This type of a work culture or ethic isn’t that bad actually. They take their work very seriously and it’s mostly a good thing. At the airport while I was waiting at the immigration counter, I was the last person in line. The person coordinating the line wrote the time on a slip of paper and gave it to me and asked me to give it to the person at the counter when I reach there. I think they were actually measuring how long it took for the last person in the line to get to the counter so that they can better manage the system and people don’t need to wait forever in lines. Now compare that with the Chennai Airport – last time I was there, there was no one really coordinating anything. There was a separate counter for foreigners and the other counters were for Indians but the sign-board that said ‘Foreign Passports’ was so small and almost hidden somewhere that there were some foreigners standing behind me in the line. It’s really up to us to use our instincts to figure out where to go.

Now that it’s been a couple of weeks and I’ve started hearing from friends back in Chennai about the summer already slowly creeping in, I think I’m starting to enjoy Tokyo more. I can’t wait for it to be spring so I can start going out a lot more.

There is something that I have wanted to write about for a long time now. It’s about one of the most exciting, scary and unforgettable days of my life. A day that will never be forgotten in history and I was there to experience it – The March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake in Japan. Memories have already started to fade a bit so I want to make sure I can write everything I remember about that day before I forget most of it.

MARCH 11, 2011 TOHOKU EARTHQUAKE

It started off just like one of those ordinary days. It was a Friday, a good day of the week usually because it’s the weekend from the next day. I went to work as usual and there were no warnings of what was going to happen later that day. Incidentally March 11 happens to be my Dad’s birthday, so after I got to the office I called him up to wish him and then continued with my work. After we finished our lunch and came back and sat in the office, at around 2:45 PM (I got that from wiki because I didn’t note down the time then) the building started shaking a bit.

Now you should know that earthquakes are pretty common in Japan and when they occur nobody even cares. They just go on with their work. The first time I experienced an earthquake in Japan, I was in a Church. The preacher was giving the sermon and my chair starts shaking. So I thought the person behind me accidentally kicked my chair or something, but then it kept happening for a few seconds and I was wondering if should turn back and tell him to stop shaking my chair. Then the preacher announced without much change in expression or tone of voice “It’s an earthquake” and she continued with the sermon. For a few seconds I was perplexed by what just happened. There was a freaking earthquake and we are still sitting inside???

Now, going back to our story, the building starts shaking, no one bothers and they continue on with their work. I still remember me turning and looking at Sujit who was sitting next to me and with a fake smile saying something like “it’s an earthquake”. We weren’t very bothered either; we had been in Japan for about a year and had felt plenty of earthquakes. But then it didn’t stop, it went on for a few more seconds and with each passing second the tremor got stronger. When I heard a few women screaming, I knew this wasn’t normal. Then it just started shaking violently, there were tables moving, files and folders falling down – it was just chaos. Now looking back, it seems comical to think about each person’s reaction and I kind of remember their expressions. But when I was there it was anything but comical. If I had to sum up their expressions in one word, it would be ‘Fear’. Thinking of myself – I don’t know if I was afraid or not afraid. Somehow in my mind, an earthquake had been registered as something that you don’t be scared of, since everything in Japan is built to withstand earthquakes. But then this was different, I had never seen people panic in an earthquake before. So if I had to sum up my reaction, it would be ‘Black Out’. I mean my eyes were still open and I could see everything, but it didn’t really look like my brain was functioning at all. Maybe my black out was a result of intense fear. I don’t know. I did nothing. I just sat in my seat and looked at everyone. There were people doing literally everything. Some were screaming, some wearing helmets, some hiding under tables, some frantically running down and some were working. Yes! WORKING! There was at least one person I saw who just put on his helmet and continued his work. I can only think of the famous line from the movie 300 – “This is Madness”

It was and still is probably one of the most sensational few minutes of my life. After the earthquake subsided, there was a sense of relief in everyone’s face. I immediately called up my dad and told him that there was a huge earthquake and they’d probably hear about it in the news soon, but things were ok. It was good that I had called so soon, in another 10 minutes or so none of the phone lines worked. Everyone was calling his or her friends or relatives I think. I asked my Japanese colleagues if they had felt an earthquake this big in their life and everyone’s answer was ‘No’. This was the biggest they had felt in their lifetime. We looked out through the window and it didn’t look like there were any big damages. There was a small fire coming from one of the buildings a little further down. But that seemed small compared to how huge the earthquake was.

Then we were all asked to go downstairs immediately as it isn’t safe to stay inside a building after an earthquake. Now after an earthquake like that, the aftershocks go on forever and I mean forever or at least it feels that way. The earth beneath us was shaking for the next few hours – ranging from mild tremors to quite strong ones. I think I felt the effect of what this earthquake and the aftershocks had done to me for the next whole year or so. Even though I had come back to India a while after that, I would get up from my sleep suddenly or even when I was working, would suddenly stop because I would feel like there was a tremor but there was nothing.

We waited downstairs and chatted about each of our experiences. How we felt, what we thought was going to happen and stuff. It was quite interesting I should say. We were informed that the train lines had stopped functioning. I think we waited downstairs for at least an hour. Then our manager told us that we could go home. One of the managers in my company was gracious and informed us (6 Indians) that he lived in Urayasu which is the next train station from where we lived in Minami Gyotoku and that he was going to try to get a taxi or walk home because the trains weren’t functioning and we could come along with him if we wanted.

Thus began our long exodus. We started walking and quickly realized that our chances of getting a taxi were quite less as everyone was frantically looking for one as well. So we walked and walked and walked.

In the middle of this, I called my mom from my cell phone. It took me a while to get through but then I did get through a couple of times. She said that in the news they were saying that the whole of Tokyo was burning. It’s kind of funny what news channels report these days. Especially the Tamil news channels that actually have no access to what’s happening in another country and are solely reporting based on information from another news channel or based on assumptions! I looked around and everything seemed normal, I couldn’t see any building burning down. Of course at that time I didn’t know about the tsunami that had hit or was going to hit the Sendai region.

By the time we reached the Tokyo train station from Shinagawa where our office was, it already felt like we had walked a long distance. But that wasn’t even half the way. We were exhausted and decided to wait at a bus stop and see if we could get a bus.

There is another thing I want to mention at this point. The Japanese people are amazing sometimes, and I mean amazing!! I was quite literally shocked by how organized they were. So there is a huge earthquake, the trains aren’t running everyone needs to go home and there are buses and taxis only from a few places but it’s packed with people. But they all wait in lines. The lines at some bus stops were super long but no one’s rushing or pushing the person in front or asking them to move forward or trying to cut into the lines. Man, I was shocked. I thought of India – No earthquake, just a normal day – a bus comes into the bus stop. People run after it like their life depended on it. No one cares if they push others, hit them or trample them. Some jump into the buses before it even stops. They want to get into the bus and get a seat and no one’s going to stop them. Don’t get me wrong, there are amazingly good things about India as well but this is one thing that we as Indians should learn from the Japanese – to behave more civilized.

So we waited at a bus stop that had services running to Minami Gyotoku/Urayasu. But it was useless; there were no buses from there that night. We waited for about an hour and then decided to walk again. There was this Japanese girl that was at the bus stop who was talking to us and when we said we were going to walk it, she asked if she could come along because she lived in that area as well. She surprisingly spoke pretty good English and so was good company for us. She was quite curious about India I think. She asked us many inquisitive questions about our country. The eight of us then thought we should eat first. So we went to a small Izakaya kind of place, had nice food, talked about the day and took some much needed rest before the next half of our journey.

trainjapan1

Then we started walking again. We stopped to check at one of the stations if the trains had started running. But that was just hope I guess. It was a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and expecting the trains to run so soon after that is asking for too much. It was quite a long and not so interesting walk. We walked along the highway and everyone was tired. I was happy that there were two Japanese people with us, because I had no idea where we were or whether we were even going in the right direction. When we reached Nishi Kasai (this place is two stations away from Minami Gyotoku – our train station), we looked across and guess what? The trains had started running again. It was a bit annoying because we had walked all the way. But then, it’s not like we get to walk home everyday so it was a good experience.

We reached home at about 11 PM. We had walked for more than four hours. The total distance from the office to our place is about 20 Kilometers, but then we walked along the train route that we know so it was close to 30 Kilometers. Things in the house looked a little displaced. But surprisingly nothing had fallen down or broken. I was quite worried if the TV in the house might have fallen down. The company had just bought us new TVs – big flat screen ones and I loved watching Japanese programs on it. Some of the shows were so funny even though I had no idea what they were saying!!

I had told someone who was visiting Japan that week that one of the things they had to experience before they leave Japan was an earthquake as it was part of the Japanese experience. But I never had this in mind. The tremors lasted through the night. I was happy that I was home safe. I was relieved that it was Saturday the next day and I secretly hoped that Monday would be a holiday due to the earthquake. Little did I know that this wasn’t the end, it was just the beginning of another long and unforgettable week. But I guess I’ll write about it another day.

Here is the post of another person’s experience on the same day. Do you have a similar experience about the March 2011 earthquake?

THERE IS A RIGHT WAY TO DO THINGS

Posted: November 25, 2011 in Faith
Tags: , ,

I haven’t written anything here in a while. Actually I’ve only written one article here. That too ages ago about my first trip to Japan. But I was reading something in the Bible last week and thought I should write about it.

I Chronicles 13:9-10

When they came to Chidons threshing floor, Uzza put out his hand to hold the ark, for the oxen stumbled. Then the anger of the Lord was aroused against Uzza, and He struck him because he put his hand to the ark; and he died there before God.When I read this I felt like, wow, that’s pretty strict!! He was only trying to hold it because it was going to fall down right? Why should he die for doing that? Isn’t that unfair? Then I read the next few chapters and I came to this verse.

I Chronicles 15:13

For because you did not do it the first time, the Lord our God broke out against us, because we did not consult Him about the proper order.

There is a right way to do something and wrong ways of doing it. The wrong ways are

  • When we do whatever we want or whatever we feel like doing or
  • When we assume that this is what God wants us to do without asking him and reading his word to find out.

Whether it’s something personal or something we want to do for God through Church or any other way, there is only one right way to do something – Ask God, read His Word and obey it.