Lessons that world can learn from Japan – Observations of March 11, 2011 Earthquake
March 11, 2011

It was around 2:45 PM JST  during the CIO’s technology leadership meeting on the 10th floor of the office, in Shinjuku, opposite Takashimaya, Shinjuku, Tokyo, that we first felt tremors of the Earthquake. We (Kamalesh ji and I) were asking our Japanese colleagues if it is normal to feel such tremor or have they experienced such tremors before.  We had not finished our sentences and the intensity of the tremors increased even more.  This is when we all went down on the floor to cover our heads, while some of our Japanese colleagues – held the door, the large pictures from flying in order to protect others in the room. While doing all this they are were gentle, soft and very organized.. No panic on their faces or in their voices. The intensity kept increasing for few minutes. It felt like a long time though. I could see tall buildings shaking like a tree leaf and believe me it was not something one wants to see, when you are on the 10th floor of a building.

One of our colleague then directed all of us to come down. We all walked down via stairs all 10 floors. Few of us stopped at the 6th floor to get our long coats as it was pretty freezing outside.  Everyone was obeying all rules of walking in the stairway and no one was pushing anyone or screaming.  First, we gathered in the middle of the road between the tall buildings. In 10 minutes or so, the local school’s playground gates were opened for all employees from our company as well as employees of companies around.

The senior leaders made sure everyone in their team was accounted for and the process of counting people was done in an organized manner. One of the first things as soon as people were in safe grounds.

After an all clear for the building, we went back into the building. Around 4:30 PM JST the company officially closed. Employees were free to go to home. However, the challenge was that there were no metro service. Taxi service was clogged. Only option was to walk to your house or apartment. A challenge for some of us who do not know much about Tokyo streets or cannot read signs clearly, as visitor we are so used to rely on the Metro trains.

Finally, we walked couple of miles, and we saw everyone were obeying all road signs. They were waiting for the ‘green man’ before crossing the intersections. No one was pushing or shoving any one.

As I write this, the after shock tremors are still going on and I am writing this, as I cannot sleep tonight.

I have never experienced such calm behavior in 20 years in living in US and almost same number of years in India, that too in face of one of largest Earthquakes in the history since 1900.

A strong support came to me in form of Gmail from my Geologist brother and scientist, half-way across the globe, who connected me and my son (who was in some other part of Tokyo, on his spring vacation from UVa and has ticket to go back to US tomorrow). My brother sent me US Embassy number and said not to panic and explained the process of Earthquake and said the worst is over but after shock tremors will be felt for days. Take precautions. He explained the intensity was 8.9 at the epicenter in the sea. Later we all came to know it was in fact one of the worst Earthquake since 1900.

The tremors are getting intense right now on the 9th floor of my building. TV is also on BBC, as the sound from TV is distracting from focusing on tremors.

Of course, some parts people must have been screaming, as the feeling of tremors is not easy to comprehend and the uncertainty of how long they will last. As we walked, many places we saw Police, Security Guards helping people patiently and not rushing. Guiding people to reach their destination.

Never heard one bad word from any one during the whole ordeal. What a great population Japan has!!

We can all learn how to be organized, orderly, respectful and helpful to human beings from the Japanese people. A great experience to remember for me and my colleagues. More tremors are on.. It is 00:43 Sat JST.

One of my Japanese colleague  Sone-san even went to 10th floor to get me some tea, as I was completely exhausted by standing out in cold. The treatment I received from my Japanese colleague will be in my permanent memory now.

More later.
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