an earthquake and a thief.

The world will remember March 11, 2011  as one of the worst natural disasters ever. The Tohoku Earthquake, Tsunami, the nuclear plant in Fukushima. What a mess.

I’ll remember it as the day my Friday afternoon got ruined, and the day I became a thief.

My friend Jeff wrote a blog about right and wrong and the grey area that exists in that spectrum. Well I got a story with some grey for ya.

It’s Friday March 11 2011 2PM. I just finish my English Teaching gig in Oshiage Station.
I wrote an article on my struggles about getting a job in Japan here if you want to read it.

This is my ‘I don’t know what I’m doing’ face

Leave work  and catch the 2:06 train, headed to Shinagawa, on my way home to Yokohama. I start reading a book on my iPhone – ‘A dummies guide to Precious Metal Investing’. You can see how that worked out for me here. 

I Transfer trains at Shinagawa and I’m on my way. The book is a total page turner, and I fall asleep dreaming about big gains in the silver market.

I’m awoken to The train shaking violently. It feels like its shaking loose from the tracks. We’ve stopped at a station somewhere on the outskirts of Tokyo. The train keeps shaking worse and worse for a minute or so then it stops.

It’s a scary situation, but everyone on the train stays silent. No one talking or moving. Welcome to Japan.

The power goes out, comes back on, goes out again. We’re stuck  for about an hour. The LCD screens on the trains change from telling us what the next station is and fills up with scrolling red Kanji.

As a general rule for a non Japanese speaker navigating the Japan rail system, green and orange Kanji means you’ll probably get there on time.

Red Kanji means ‘lol no more trains for you’.

Finally the doors open and a train guy tells everyone to follow him. We’re slowly filed out of an emergency exit, down some steps,into a corridor and through a secret exit door that leads to the side of a highway. Train guy leaves.

I’m confused, but everyone starts walking along the highway. I guess this is my life now so I start walking too. I guess the plan is to get to the next station and catch another train.

This plan fails.

After a couple of km’s following the road with hundreds of other passengers I see the next station up ahead. The red kanji on the train screens is so bright I can read it from the road.

No trains.

At this point I have no idea how bad the earthquake really was, especially at the epicentre a couple hundred km’s away . Facebook fills me in. Wow.

I try to call my wife, Maasa. No answer.

Text her, no reply.

Email her, but it doesn’t send. It’s like trying to call someone on new years eve – too congested to get through.

I check maps to see how far I am from home. OH ONLY 19 KILOMETRES

Estimated time to get home: 1AM

I start walking.Picture 030

I get to a sign. 1km to Kawasaki, a major train station. 14km’s to Yokohama +3km’s to my house.

As you can seen in the photo, the roads  leading away from Kawasaki are busy, the roads  leading to Kawasaki/Yokohama are empty. New plan: Get to Kawasaki, catch a bus.

I make it to Kawasaki Station, there are thousands of people just sitting around. Maybe no one had the idea to catch a bus? I walk to the bus depot, feeling optimistic.

Picture 031
I’ve heard some people are still waiting in line for this bus
Above is a photo I took of some of the line for a SINGLE bus to Yokohama. I couldn’t even see the front of the line.

Its been a couple hours and I still haven’t heard from my wife, Maasa. I can’t get hold of her. I see on Facebook other people have successfully sent text messages and emails.

She should be able to reply. Why isn’t she?

I  get worried. Survival instincts kick in. I have to get home. Fast.

Trains are out

Buses are out.

I get back on the main road and keep walking, I don’t have my wallet and have about 1000 yen (10 bucks) on me. Not enough for a Taxi

Not enough for a bicycle.

I need a bicycle.

I plan to ‘borrow’ a bicycle

I start looking for an unlocked bike. There are bikes everywhere. Locked. Locked. Locked. It takes two or three km’s and then I find one. It’s unlocked.

I take it.

I promise myself I’ll return it tomorrow. I ride like the wind.

All bikes in Japan are registered and I hope hope hope I don’t see a cop and they find out its not my bike.

I see a cop.

He doesn’t stop me! The cops have bigger fish to fry today.

I fly by him with my heart racing at the theft, the sight of the officer, and worried sick about my lover back home.

I get home an hour or so later, still haven’t heard from Maasa. The apartment door is unlocked. I’m worried.

I get upstairs and its a mess

Picture 033
The guitar survived. The TV was a mess. Yay! No more NHK payments!
Picture 034
Our fridge did an almost 180 degree spin. All plates and glasses were smashed all over the floor. Maasa was cooking Indian food that had spilled everywhere. I was hungry for it but  got Naan.
I still can’t find Maasa. Panic Panic Panic.

Forty five minutes later I get a text message. It’s her! It’s a photo

Picture 032
cute and scared. but safe!
She’d evacuated to the primary school nearby. Very scared – but safe.

Crisis averted.

Except for the stolen bike. I plan to return it the next day. I get up the next day and go outside to take the bike back (ride it back then catch the train home).

Its gone


The stolen bike is stolen. Stealception.

The definition of steal is:

stiːl/ verb
  1. 1.
    take (another person’s property) without permission or legal right and without intending to return it.
    “thieves stole her bicycle”


I planned to return it, but was unable to. If I had the opportunity for a do over, I wouldn’t change anything.

Am I thief?

I don’t know. The definition kinda lets me off the hook, but I’d probably still say yes.





One thought on “an earthquake and a thief.

  1. Pingback: My experience of the 3/11 Earthquake –

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