What to eat in an earthquake (2)


Usually it should not have taken long to get back into central Tokyo, but the footbridge was closed for fear of an approaching tsunami. At this stage we had no idea of the devasting effects that would be felt up the coast and thought that the two retired neibourhood volunteers manning the entrance were being over cautious. Strangely they were probably right and wrong simultaneously. Correct to fear a tsunami could approach, wrong to imagine closing it would have had any effect as a tsunami would have taken out the whole of the man-made island we were on, never mind the footbridge.

The only way back therefore was via Tsukiji, home of the world famous fish market. It was a beautiful warm evening and as we walked back I tried to send an email home on my colleagues phone to say that 'if anything happened to get on the news, we were fine'. On about the 10th attempt we got the email to send. And that in fact turned out to be the only one we sent as the whole mobile system started to collapse under the weight of outgoing and incoming messages.

Walking was much slower with so many people en route but after about two hours we got to Tsukji. Having missed lunch we decided to take a luck at dinner, correctly assuming there would be no trains, wrongly assuming they might restart later. We passed Tsukiji sushiko the 本店 (main branch) of a respected chain of sushi restaurants that I knew from many years back. It was relatively empty at about 5pm so we settled down ordering slowly so we could stay for as long as possible.

After what felt like a short amount of time, but in reality about 7pm, we admitted defeat and went to pay the bill. Only then did we realise the queue for the restaurant was now enormous, far longer than on a normal day. A man waiting with his friends for a table had an iphone. I asked him if he could check the BBC web site to see if there was any report of an earthquake. I translate from his Japanese but he basically said, "Buddy, we are in the biggest news story in the whole world. Look at this, BBC, CNN, everywhere, top news news story". Finally we realised that somewhere in Japan it was really serious, yet as we went out in to the warm evening air it looked like an almost normal Japanese evening, with people wondering where to eat and recounting their stories of how far they had needed to walk.