The big earthquake that shook Japan this Friday 5 years ago

In Japan, exactly 5 years ago, a Friday morning like today, many of us in our routine thought, “TGIF,” or “Yatto kin’yōbi da!” (Finally Friday!).

However, the weekend took a whole different turn when half of Japan was shaken by a strong earthquake in the afternoon, at 2:46pm. Believe me, anyone who went through that will remember that precise moment forever.

Soon after the shake, the news came in: it was the most powerful earthquake to have ever hit Japan. It triggered a large tsunami, causing important damage in the north and to a large nuclear reactor in Fukushima. Thousands of people went missing, were injured, or perished. Several towns and villages were practically wiped off the map.

The municipalities and most of the homes may have been rebuilt, but even today the nuclear reactor is still under constant maintenance. If this isn’t enough to remind us of the natural disaster, the 10,000+ aftershocks will make your heart skip a beat and make your mind jump back to that time quickly enough.

Sign post of prayers
Memorials amongst the ruins in Natori, Miyagi prefecture. Source: Wikipedia.

Let’s take a moment today to remember that time and those who didn’t make it through.

I remember sleeping with my boots the night it happened, alone in my apartment. I had nowhere to go, and the trains were at a halt.

The aftershocks were very frequent, shaking the ground every few minutes. When some trains were finally running, I went down to Shinjuku, to find the most crowded area of Tokyo being virtually deserted in the middle of a weekday. Electricity was rationed, and outages were scheduled to help save power. And the TV was filled with public service messages like the one below, as all the companies pulled their ads off the air. It was a very unique time to be in Japan.

If you were in Japan at the time, where were you when the earthquake hit? If you were abroad, where were you when you heard the news?

Cover image: Warnings of tsunami on TV a few moments after the earthquake.

Warnings of tsunami on TV after the earthquake in Japan of 11 March 2011

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