The photos above show people walking down the monorail track, after their train had performed an emergency stop between two stations, in Shiodome area of Tokyo. We were all lucky when compared to what happened further up the Japanese coast on 11 March 2011, but at the time we thought they were the unlucky ones. Our monorail train had conveniently performed its own emergency stop in a station.
Though the doors opened, at first nobody got out. The train's sensors were far better than a human detection system. And as the earthquake gained force, we all remained in our seats 'knowing' that these things always pass after a few seconds, but then there was a jolt, like nothing any of us had felt before. I can confidently say that none of us had felt such a wave of energy because we all went for the door at the same time, old and young alike.
Once on the station platform we looked at the carriage which was starting to bob around like a little boat in a poorly protected harbour when the wind picks up. Then it really kicked in. First there was a sound of metal being pulled in directions it wasn't designed to move in and then the platform, which was a good (or bad) 20m above street level on stilts moved in a way concrete usually doesn't. Each time the earthquake strengthened I thought, "Everything's standing, provided it gets no worse than this we're OK", at which point, naturally, it got worse. As we all know, it did finally decrease. In our area, the earthquake left little evidence of its awesome power. What amazing engineering.
As you can imagine, we did what anybody would do after a near-death experience; we went for late-lunch. We'd been stuck in an exhibition all morning and as luck would have it there was an attractive restaurant (Daiba Kitchen if you're ever in the area) right by our monorail exit (Our table near left)
Our pasta arrived with two large glasses of red wine to calm the nerves and I had just taken my fourth mouthful (my colleague, her first, being slow) when there was an impressive aftershock. We all rushed out and looked at the nearby Suntory HQ swaying like a tree in the wind.
Unfortunately for my pasta we weren't allowed back in the restaurant, as the building behind caught fire at that point. The head waiter was profuse with apology in a way that perhaps only the Japanese could, saying that of course that we did not have to pay, how sorry he was that their gas had been cut off due to the building behind going up in flames and how delighted he would be to see us another time.
And so began the slow walk towards central Tokyo, with the thousands of others who had evacuated their offices.