To USB or Not to USB


Leaving Japan – After the Earthquake

After about the first minute of the first earthquake, I took out my Blackberry and shot the first videos you saw in the first post.  Shortly after that we saw this fire from our window from the top floor of Synopsys NSGK.


Gervais Fong looks out at the fire in the distance.

Our customer meeting pretty much stopped, and we started watching the live video feed of the Tsunami hitting the Sendai area.

Mobile and landlines were jammed.  The Internet worked, so I Google Talked with my wife, and Skype’d with MCCI Japan.

The trains all shut down immediately during the earthquake, and most people ride the train 1-2 hours to go home.  This means everyone either walked home or spent the night in their office.  Here’s a train stopped right across a street.  The engineer likely slept inside the train all night long.


Ralph Grundler taking a picture of this train stopped over the road  near Shinagawa.

We had dinner with our co-workers, who all slept in the office that night.

Our team of Ralph Grundler, Gervais Fong, Hezi Saar, and I walked the 2 miles back to our hotel.  We saw thousands of people walking.  We ran into one of Ralph’s employees who had been walking for 6-7 hours to get back to the office. He had tried to rent a motorcycle, but the shop had sold out and closed.  It would have been much longer for him to have walked to his home, which was in the direction of Sendai.

By the time we got back to the hotel, only the freight elevator was running, so we didn’t have to walk up 26 flights of stairs.  We checked the 7-11 in the lobby, and all the ready-made food was gone at about 9pm, by 10pm, the shelves looked like this below. 


Every bag of salty snacks, every Cup-Of-Noodles.  Only Ice Cream and cold drinks were left.  Also, the battery powered cell phone chargers were wiped out along with all the batteries.  Some people were sitting in cardboard in the lobby, with their bags of snacks and phones out.  I guess they couldn’t walk home.

As you know by now, 13,000 people were stranded in Narita. We were scheduled to leave on Saturday, but the airport Narita Express wasn’t running.  The airports buses weren’t running.

Our flight went from “On Time” to “Indefinite” to “On Time.”

We took a cab.

We avoided the stopped traffic on the highway, taking side streets.  After 30 min, the driver said, “No problem”  10 min later we came to a stop.  Then we said, “Let’s go back to the hotel.”

We later found out that the streets going north were jammed with people and heavy machinery trying to go north to get to the Sendai area to help.

After we returned to the hotel from our attempt to get to the airport on Saturday afternoon, I took a nap.

Ralph Grundler woke me up via phone call:

Eric wakes up, grabs phone: “Hello?”
Ralph: “Eric, there was an explosion at the nuclear power plant.”
Eric: “What?”
Ralph: “Teresa, just e-mailed me, there was an explosion at the nuclear power plant.”
Eric: “What?!”
Ralph: “Eric, find out what you can on the internet”
Eric: “What?!”
Ralph: “Gervais and I are having appetizers in the lobby, come down and tell us what happened”. Click.

Sunday, we took the train for 4 hours down to Osaka, the opposite direction of Narita Airport, Sendai, and the nuclear power plant.  We had no problems getting to our flights.

It seems trivial to tell this story, in the face of the real problems facing the Japanese now.  My thoughts are with all my coworkers, friends, and their families in Japan.

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