Letter from Erik Kaye: Earthquake in Japan

Editor’s Note: The following is a letter just sent to me from Japan on May 11th, 2011 by my friend Erik Sutter-Kaye.  He found himself in the middle of the initial earthquake while attending to business for his work teaching English. He has been living in Japan with his wife Corinne for several years now. To see some of his paintings of Japan, see “Erik Kaye (Japan Paintings)” listed on the right under the Pagessection and then under “Art“.

Hi,  Bea.

Now’s not the time for a long letter.  I got 5 hours of sleep and am now preparing to try to take the train to Chiba to be with Corinne.  If I can trust the Japan Railway site, the most crucial trains will be resumed in an hour.  I guess they shut down after the initial quake, which was the worst, yesterday at 2pm.
I was at Funabashi City Hall taking care of business– tax day is next Tuesday.
I was on the balcony on the second floor overlooking the main hall with all the service windows and waiting sofas, at the National Health service myself with two interpreters when the heaving began to start.  I could see people on the bottom floor running out the door, but people on my floor stayed where they were.  stairs are a dangerous place to be.
I thought about Christchurch last week.  the floor rippled and shook and I wondered how bad it was going to get.  I heard things pop and break and fall, but no glass.  books fell off shelves, filing drawers opened, folders fell to the floor, florescent light fixtures fell.  then it subsided.  the bureaucrats I was talking to all looked at me and each other with amazement.  One of the translators said simply, “I’m from Kobe.  We’re used to this.”
I didn’t have any idea of the magnitude of the quake for a couple of hours until I got home to my Guest House at about 6.  I had spent 2 or 3 hours doing class notes at a coffee shop and notice the overhead hanging lamps frequently swinging, while the patrons acted like nothing happened.
I bicycled home and didn’t think about the condition of trains.  When I got near home, I saw a train just sitting on the track, and railroad staff directing traffic through a crossing next to the station, but didn’t think anything of it, because of the stoicism I encountered earlier, I guess.  It wasn’t until I saw my friend Otis in the common room watching TV showing footage of huge oil refineries blowing up, and a whole parking lot of cars being carried away …. another mild tremor right now; my bags hanging on the closet door tapping…
I had been trying to reach Corinne for hours on cell phone and thought she was blowing me off.  Then I found out all the phones were down.  The gas in our building was cut off.
Finally, I got on the internet and everything was buzzing.  Corinne had been trying to get through to me for hours.  Throughout the night there were frequent tremors.  The FEMA site said there will be aftershocks for 2 weeks.  corinne sent me links and I sent her links.  Most friends in America were apparently still asleep.
Later, Otis and I walked to the nearby JR station.  All the gateways were shuttered, and hundreds of commuters were sitting against the walls of the halls like they were waiting for morning.  There were lines at the taxi stands but no taxis.  the 24 hour grocery stores and convenient stores and MacDonalds were closed.  We heard about people walking 40 miles to get home.  It was cold out.  It had just snowed a couple of days ago.
I slept soundly and comfortably through the tremors that still happen.
Now I’m going to do a few things, and leave to be with Corinne.
As I write this, I just saw a note from you on Facebook chatline.  But you’re offline again now.
Keep trying and I’ll be in touch with you soon.
And yeah, I’d like to know whats going on astrologically.  This is the dawning of the Age of Ophiacus!
Love Erik
P.S. I send my love and wishes to the people on the Pacific Coast of America.

Categories: social and political commentary by Erik Kaye, Uncategorized

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