We left the coffee shop and headed towards the hotel, following along the road. As we were walking, the opposing side of the street people were pointing to the upper extremities of the buildings above us, making me wonder what they were looking at but not really wanting to stop and gawk. Tokyo is a city of millions, and every single one was in the middle of the street. Staring at the buildings and each other trying not to cry. Every building had people leaving it after the big shock and doing headcounts. The people were kind enough to make space for those on their way to destinations so we didn't have to force our way through a crowd. Even in a crisis the Japanese are polite.
The streets themselves were hauntingly quiet. For the amount of people outside, it was dead silent. What would have been a huge uproar in any major North American, by the sheer number of people in any locale was not even increased by panic. All the cars in the street had stopped by this point and it seemed as though the abiotic side of Tokyo was dead.
As we meandered down the street I noticed that I was able to smell gas leaks. Stronger in some areas, and weaker in others. When we finally came to the intersection where we were to turn North and head towards the hotel, my father suggested we turn south and head towards Shinjuku Gyoenmae Park. Which was an interesting decision. He intended that we pay to enter the park and survey the area, being sightseeing tourists. Instead we discovered ourselves to be ushered into the park.
There we stayed for the following two hours along with thousands of other people, including school groups and offices as well as just other people who were just in the area. While there, several groups of people were wearing these white construction worker hats. At first, I thought that these were, in fact, construction workers. As time went on, and other people were seen with these, I figured out that these were Earthquake hats. Their purpose is to protect the head of a person during an Earthquake.
The park made announcements ongoing throughout the time. The first was the only one I heard with any distinction (but I did understand it a fair bit). My first factual knowledge of the disaster was that on March 11, 2011 at about 14:46 Japan was hit with an Earthquake. For the next hour and a half, my parents and I sat on a bench and watched people walk in circles, to calm nerves and keep warm, I presume.
As we sat there, aftershocks continued to occur. When a large one occurred, everyone rushed into the open areas of the park and we all stood there. From the park, I watched buildings that were easily 10, 15 stories high swaying and shaking from the shock of the after waves. The aftershocks themselves were as large as earthquakes themselves. None of this I knew at the time. I think if I had I would have been more worried. Also if I had known how bad the damage was in Sendai I would have been terrified. As the events stood, I just watched as hundreds of people went to the vending machines and bought whatever drink they wanted. Mostly water and has the sky darkened with rain, more of them took to buying warm drinks. The small shop in the area was also doing their best to sell to the crowd. I felt bad for all the girls in their short skirts and heels. The heels they remedied by putting on slippers instead. Which while looking odd, makes quite a bit of sense. Things started to get worse for us when the rain started to fall and the temperature dropped. I felt rather bad for all the mothers with young children in strollers. Which is more for another time.
But, as a side note, while writing this blog, 218 km away another Earthquake, measuring about a 6.5 at the epicenter occurred. According to the weather warning on the tv, here in Tokyo we got about a 3. Prayers are greatly appreciated.