Well, I am sitting in the comfort of home writing this post not really knowing where to start. I will continue from where I left off in The Budo Diaries – Volume Two
Training was pretty brutal from Wednesday through to Friday afternoon with my success rate going down too. It was the part of the camp where everything and everyone is sore and tired but you push harder on the mat, the track and in the gym, despite the short term ill-effects. You know you’re in phenomenal shape and you want to push as hard as possible. It is the hardest battle of all, convincing yourself to lift one more rep, fight one more randori or do one more 100 metre sprint. Luckily though, looking around at the Japanese students who do this EVERY DAY, I can pretty calmly tell myself to quit my whingeing and fight on.
So Friday afternoon we were in the gym lifting, grunting and groaning the afternoon away when all of a sudden everything shook. My very first thought was that I had squatted too much and my quads were shot, giving me wobbly knees. Within two seconds I rubbished that thought and realised we were in an earthquake, probably the 3rd or 4th one I have experienced in Japan. After waiting in the doorway for 10 seconds we decided we should probably get the hell out of the building. The quake went for 2 or 3 minutes and we sat outside for 5 waiting for an aftershock, making fun of Jake’s [surname] miraculously healed ankle (limped like he had a broken foot all day, then sprinted like Usain Bolt when the quake hit). We then returned to the gym and carried on with our workouts for about 5 minutes.
Soon a second, stronger quake had the walls shaking again and we were out the door in no time. Now the university’s emergency alarm was sounding and the whole school was evacuated to an open area. There we stood for a while, felt some small tremors and just stood around chatting thinking ‘gee, two quakes in a day, how about that?’ As time went by word started to filter through about how big the quakes had been, that some places were in big trouble and maybe a tsunami coming through. Katsuura is atop a very big hill so after an hour or so we were given the all clear to go back to the dorms and call it a day.
Our mood went from joking to scared when we went online and saw some of the devastation as it unfolded. We spent the next 24 hours in shock, hearing more and more news and hoping no aftershocks would send the roof crumbling down onto our heads.
Training was cancelled indefinitely. We still did some running and played a game of soccer to keep ourselves fit and busy on Saturday. After the (hotly contested) game we returned to our dorms and heard that the aftershocks were still occurring all over the country and that Fukushima was having some problems with the nuclear reactors.
We decided we wanted to go home. Qantas was great to us and was able to get us out that night but we were not going to make it to Narita Airport in time. The next best thing they could do was put us on a flight to Perth Monday night and arrange our connections home after that.
Saturday night and Sunday were spent watching the news, re-assuring family we were okay and watching movies on laptops to get away from it all. Our meals quickly became an issue with most restaurants shut and supermarkets running out of perishable foods within 24 hours of first quake (highways shut and trucks were being used for rescue efforts, not normal food delivery).
Monday morning Budo University provided us with a bus for us to get to Narita. We had heard that the normal 45 minute trip from Tokyo to Narita was now 7 hours. Given that the normal Budo to Narita trip is 2 hours we thought we were in for one hell of a drive, especially considering the freeway was closed and we had to take back roads.
In the end we got there in three and a half hours and had about 8 hours until our flight home. We knew that Narita Airport had felt consistent aftershocks since Friday and was on tsunami alert so they were a tense few hours. The airline had booked us tickets all the way home and we were ready to go.
We waited and waited calmly until 10 minutes prior to boarding when we felt a tremor. It was nothing compared to what happened on Friday but had us panicking a little. Our flight took off with a 20 minute delay but we were glad to just be out of there. Short stop in Perth and it was on to Melbourne.
Home never felt so good! We even had some media ask questions at the airport. I guess all it takes is an earthquake to get Judo players on Australian TV.
The excitement of being home and out of danger is tempered by the sympathy I feel for the Japanese people. The country that created the Martial Art that transformed my life is on its knees and that is hard to take. As far as I know everyone I know and families connected to Japan are safe but so much is not. The magnitude of this will only really be known months from now. With the country suffering aftershocks, nuclear explosions, food and water shortages as well as an ever increasing death toll I can’t even imagine when Japan will recover.
I can only reiterate my joy for getting out alive and hope that everyone’s thoughts and prayers are with those less fortunate who are still going through this horrible tragedy.