Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Friday night and Saturday morning

So at about 7pm most of the parents had collected their offspring so we had to thing about getting home. We have to take a train home, it's too far to walk or bike (especially as we're either bringing or taking Marcus with us). At this point the trains were not running but we were hopeful that they might start again that evening, but at maybe 7.30 or 8.00pm an announcement was made by JR that train services would stop for the night.

OK, what do we do? Well, we could try looking for a hotel, you never know... (at this point I should mention that the Guru had, at about 3pm, suggested that she should go and get a hotel room as things looked dicey about getting home - I naturally poo-pooed this, having far too much faith in JR getting their trains running again; silly me). So we loaded up and with the IT Manager Rey, his wife and kid (who live about 2 minutes from us in north Tokyo) set about trying to find some food and a bed for the night. We were lucky in that we knew, if we couldn't find anywhere, we could just stay in the school, many others didn't have that luxury. We wandered up to Children's castle on Aoyama-dori as we knew they had rooms, but naturally all was full when we got there. Also, judging by the number of people on the streets, we figured pretty quickly that every room in Tokyo would probably be taken by now. So, after a brief stop for contact lens solution  (which I subsequently found I had already bought and put in my office earthquake emergency pack for this very situation - I'm organised without remembering it) we headed off.

Thinking about food, we walked down towards central Shibuya but, as you can imagine, most eateries were either closed or packed, whilst all convenience stores and coffee shops were empty of easily eatable food. On the way passed we checked the Tokyu Hotel on Meiji-dori but the scrum in the foyer put us off, so then we headed to TGI Fridays - again I poo-pooed this suggestion, thinking we should stick to less crowded areas, but when we got there not only did they have space but they could do us a table for 6 in the non-smoking section! So with minimal wait we sat down to burgers and well deserved beers. It was busy there, but probably no more so than a nornmal Friday evening, and the staff were surprisingly positive, helpful and unstressed. So hats off to them, they shall now be known as TFI (Thank Fuck It's Open on) Fridays :)

After refuelling we headed back to school. The business centre/office was one option, but I realised that the teacher's staff room would be a better place as they had sofas and cushions. We thought that a few people might already be there, but all was in darkness when we arrived. The cleaning crew were still in school and a few others from the business group who couldn't get home, so some went to the library to sleep, others in the office and we in the staff room. All this time the youngster and Rey's little boy (the year above but he and Marcus are friends) were having a great time, completely hyperactive, excited and enjoying themselves thoroughly. By 11pm they should have been spark out but it was a struggle to get them to sleep.

A check of facebook, a few more emails and text messages and a phonecall with the folks later and that was it for me; off to sleep. Unfortunately the staffroom is on the 6th floor of the school so every little aftershock made the building sway, so sleep was hard to come by, for the adults at least - Marcus slept soundly all the way through but I reckon I got about 2 hours, on-and-off, through the night.

Yes, it wasn't the most comfortable place to spend the night, but we were dry, warm, together, fed, alive, relatively safe and had a roof over our heads, things that people in Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima did not have. I counted my blessings several times over.

Next morning we woke early as the blinds aren't too effective in the staffroom. The tv news said trains would start running around 7 or 8am, so after a bit of breakfast (Rey had sensibly bought food before everything went from the convenience store the afternoon before) we headed to the station. As we left we walked past our next door (Japanese) high school we saw what looked like all their students leaving the building. I think that they kept all the students in over night to make sure they were safe - goodness knows what they did for food and blankets.

At Shibuya station it wasn't the chaos I had half expected. It seems the Japanese don't do chaos (or rioting, looting or any of the other things you might expect to happen - it seems more akin to British blitz-style stoicism). We got to the platform and there was a Yamanote line train waiting to approach the platform, whilst our Saikyo train was about to leave Ebisu. About an hour or so later neither train had moved.

On the way we had seen a Ginza subway line train moving so we decided on a subway strategy that would get us almost all the way home. So, hot-foot to the ginza line, check the Namboku is also working and then onto the platform. We just missed the departing train but were first in line for the next, but just then there was an announcement that due to overcroding at Ueno the ginza line was suspended... Loud groans but what can you do, JR wasn't running either. So we waited and after only about 10 minutes they decided to start running agin. From there it was plain sailing - ginza line to Tameiki-Sanno, change to the namboku and it took us all the way to Akabane, which is only 2 stops from where we live (but the last bit is JR only, hence trying to take the train before).

We decided to get a cab home for the last little bit, well, 2 cabs, one for each family. As we were walking down the road to the taxi rank Rey was lucky enough to hail one and got off straight away. We weren't so lucky and so had to join the queue at the rank for what proved to be the longest wait of the journey home. Over an hour we waited but finally we picked up a cab.

At 11am we finally got home and I'm glad to say our apartment was entirely undamaged and the tv, which I was sure would be on the floor in a million pieces was standing proud and upright.

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