Power outages have come into effect. Three-hour rolling power outages will take place across Japan, town by town, affecting over a million people at a time, trying to reduce our need for power by more than 30%.

Trains are running at 40% capacity. My local train is not running in the morning rush. My usual routine today would be to teach a class in video production to American and Japanese students at Temple University. My commute is two and a half hours normally; we live on the western perimeter of greater Tokyo. But classes are cancelled to inspect the building.

At the time of the quake I had just arrived to a small language school to cover for a sick teacher. Ten minutes later, it hit. We ran out onto the town square and watched everything shake. It seemed that everything was right on the threshold before buildings collapse into a cloud of dust..

I wondered how I would filter my breathing should that occur. The shaking didn’t stop. It was probably around a minute, but a very long minute at that.

Trains were stopped. I waited an hour and a half to see if they would start again. I jumped on a bike and rode home. It was a 27km journey along a route I didn’t know using my iPhone maps. My battery died at exactly the final turn that I wasn’t sure of.

I passed people simply walking to get home. Traffic was moving, but slowly. Restaurants were open and people were trying to relax. When I did get home — three hours later — my area was blacked out. We got power back after three hours at 11.30pm at night.

Aftershocks keep coming. I offered to help a video producer that I work for, and at 1.30am I was booked to be cameraman for a live satellite feed that services many journalists in town.

At 9am Saturday I started work — and at 12:30am Monday I finally got home after a single shift.

All the journalists want to go north to Sendai. The logistics are difficult. The local authorities and goverment are very evasive in their press releases. The Japanese trust foreign media more (if they can read it) to find out what is going on.

The nuclear threat is up and down all day — TV presenters want to make it as scary as possible. The experts think otherwise, but scepticism of the Japanese government also makes people wonder if they will say as little as they can in order to avoid an exodus from Tokyo.

Convenience stores are empty of fast food and ready meals. The streets were very empty and quiet yesterday, although I haven’t been out today. Many people are trying to get to work apparently — and have been asked to go to work — but schools are cancelled, and building inspections are the order of the day for such government facilities. I will try and get to town again in an hour or so — the long way round, no doubt.

Aftershocks continue but aren’t as strong. There was just another long one. Must be over 5 magnitude. I can almost tell now.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off