Lessons from Japan – Day 5 After Earthquake – A personal account
March 16, 2011

The most admiring part of the Japan and Japanese people is reflected well in the culture.  No country or countrymen in the world is up to that level right now.  Day 5, after the major Earthquake hit Japan, I left Tokyo to come to US.  The airline graciously and with a smile on face of their employees changed the ticket for me. On top of that they were saying that they are personally sorry to see that people have to change plans because of the Earthquake. How many people in this world, will say sorry for a natural disaster that impacts their guests and customers?

On Monday, the food supplies in stores was running low in many areas of Tokyo, lot of restaurants were closed.  People did not hoard the food.  They bought just the right amount for one meal. So everyone can get some food for lunch.

The petrol or gas was not available in abundance, people waited for long hours to get their quota of gas. What a patience these people have?  Way more than my fellow country man in US. The patience level is very low here. I was reminded of the difference with in 5 hours of arrival in Virgina from Tokyo. I was driving to Oakton High School for a concert  in the evening.  As I waited for a left turn, the person behind me in a big truck started honking.  He had no patience for the cars coming from the opposite direction to pass. It took only less than a minute for those cars to pass us.

Officially, the electricity rolling blackout was declared in Tokyo and other areas of the country. On Monday, office workers decided to turn off all lights in the office and work under the natural light that was coming through the window. In the airport hotel, where I stayed they turned off air-conditioning and other power using items like TV etc. No one complained or requested for refund.

The honor, the dignity of human life, the true sharing of resources is the motto of the Japanese people. This is probably the effect of teachings of Shinto and or Buddhism the two major faith popular in Japan.

I am sure some developed and developing country people can learn some patience, some discipline and follow the foot steps of the Japanese people.  Human dignity is very important for Japanese people.

A more detailed account of the customer service of Airline staff, that is exemplary in it own sense will be presented here later.

I am completely humbled by the Japanese people.
Physics applied to minimize Nature’s Forces – An analysis of Tokyo’s tall buildings
March 13, 2011

Today is the 3rd day since the major earthquake hit Japan. The number of after shock tremors have gone over 260 of different categories. Till March 19th more are expected.

I stay on the 9th floor in an apartment building in central Tokyo. The tremors are very visible and you can feel them very much. The swaying of building reflects the intensity and duration of these tremors.

Earlier today I visited Kamalesh ji at his apartment and he lives on the 22nd floor of the building. As we discussed what things fell in his apartment. The answer was none. So what happened?

The answer lies in the application of physics and engineering that was used in buiding these tall apartment complexes.

Here is a brief on that:

  • An active mass damper system, containing two master dampers is installed on the topmost floor of the building.
  • All the other floors contain hysteresis and viscous dampening devices within their structures.

What it helps with?

  • The above systems allows to cope with severe swaying caused by large earthquakes (200-300 gals acceleration response spectrum of the hysteresis theory).  So, what is this “gal” is the unit of measure for acceleration in gravitational science. gal is written in lower case and it is 1 cm/(s^2) = 1 cm per second square. The unit gal is name after Galileo the famous scientist.
  • The above systems also allows for lesser swings caused by large winds (20-30 gals acceleration response spectrum).
  • The building has been constructed to withstand an earthquake of seismic intensity 7 on the Japanese scale and a maximum velocity of 50 centimeters/second.

What is the Active Mass Damper System?

  • A sensor that detects swaying is coupled to a computer.
  • It minimizes the swaying by controlling a weight installed in the uppermost part of the building.
  • It can reduce the impact of a 25 meters/second wind by 50%.

What are damping devices?

  • There are two damping devices (a) Hysteresis damper, and (b) Viscous dampers.
  • Hysteresis dampers are built based on physics theory of hysteresis
  • Viscous dampers are based on energy absorbing materials.

However, the physics and the engineering can reduce the impact of Nature’s force upto a certain degree, as the predictability of Nature’s force is still an ongoing research topic.

On the life in Tokyo, the stores have certainly run of fresh vegetables and other items mostly due to lack of transportation. The metros have finally started to work. Not sure about the fast trains. Lets see what Monday brings.

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.