Graeme Melvin's 'surreal' six days in Tokyo

Image caption Empty shelves in a shop in the Tsukiji area of Tokyo

A Scot teaching English in Japan has kept a diary of the days following the 9.0 magnitude earthquake that hit the country.

Graeme Melvin, 28, from Edinburgh, but now living in the Tokyo area, previously told the BBC Scotland news website of the hours after the quake. Here he recounts the past six days.


The day after the earthquake violently shook Tokyo to its foundations, both physically and mentally.

Following my haphazard, marathon journey home from Tokyo, I sat at 6.30am in my apartment still feeling totally stunned and unsure of what to do.

Thankfully I was able to contact my family to let them know that I was ok.

I knew that I should try to get some rest but a combination of shock and adrenaline ensured that there was no way I would be able to sleep.

I spent most of the day on Facebook trying to contact friends in Japan. I was relieved to find that many of them had been at home when the earthquake had hit and the others were spread out across Tokyo unable to get home due to the earthquake's crippling effect on Tokyo's vast rail and subway network.

Social networking has its critics, but thanks to Facebook, Twitter and Skype thousands of people have been able to make contact with their families and friends when mobile phone communications were knocked out.


It has become clear just how serious the situation at the Fukushima nuclear plant is. We are still reeling from being hit by the 9.0 earthquake and the carnage and devastation in Miyagi prefecture where the tsunami swept away everything in its path.

Image caption Graeme Melvin is teaching English at a school in Tokyo

Now, it is apparent that the plant is in a state of emergency and there has already been an explosion. If it's possible, the mood here has become even graver than before.

I was very grateful to have been able to talk directly to my parents via Skype. They are currently in Chogoria in Kenya doing volunteer work at the local primary and secondary schools and only have limited access to the internet.

They had read the account of events that I had written for the BBC Scotland news website and as you can imagine, were incredibly relieved to hear my voice and see that I was safe and well after what had happened.

I saw some close friends this evening at a local bar. Unsurprisingly our conversation was dominated by the threat of radiation from Fukushima and what we would do if it escalates.

I met my friend's new baby boy for the first time and how I envied him being blissfully unaware of everything.


Today was supposed to see the start of nationwide scheduled power blackouts to conserve energy.

However, when the allotted three-hour time period for my local area's blackout came, it passed without any kind of cut.

I received a phone call from my boss at 7am, telling me that all of our company's morning lessons were cancelled due to transport networks only running limited services. He then called me an hour later to tell me that the entire day's schedule was cancelled.

Unfortunately, millions of Japanese people tried to go to work as usual and were faced with queues that were miles long as many trains were affected by the power cuts.

This resulted in absolute havoc around the greater Tokyo area as thousands of commuters were being stranded on their way to work.


This morning my boss sent out a company wide e-mail to inform us that we would be closed for business until 22 March at the earliest.

This case is by no means an isolated incident as a great number of companies have put a temporary stop to business which this has had a huge effect on the Japanese economy.

I had up until this point, not taken my family and friends' advice to go to the hospital and have my head examined following the pounding it took on Friday night after I was knocked out during an aftershock.

It had felt fine all weekend, but it had begun to feel painful so I visited a nearby hospital where the doctor recommended that I have a CT scan. Thankfully the scan showed no skull damage or internal bleeding and the doctor informed me that my head would feel better as long as I took it easy during the next week.

I visited the supermarket on my way home, which was busier than I've ever seen it, with massively long lines of people panic-buying as much food, drinks, toiletries as they could. Bread is now very scarce across the greater Tokyo area.

Once again the scheduled power cut for my area did not occur as it had been announced on television.


An increasing number of unbelievable video footage taken by survivors of the tsunami have been shown on television.

One piece of footage showed drivers of cars on a motorway catching sight of the tsunami rushing towards them and trying desperately to change direction to escape.

The incredible speed of the tsunami made any escape impossible and seeing the cars engulfed desperately trying to outrun the oncoming water reminded me so much of the 11 September 2001 attacks on the US.

Image caption Foreigners living in Japan have started leaving for their home nations

Since I wrote my account last Friday, the death toll has risen to over 5,000 - 10 times the number at the time of my first account. Sadly the final death toll is going to exceed 10,000 and the possibility of finding any of the 8,000 missing people alive has decreased to almost zero following the blizzard which covered areas in northern Japan in snow.

I experienced my first power cut this afternoon for three hours. The government has warned to expected surprise power cuts until April.

Tokyo is a city of life. To see large areas blacked out, shops with empty shelves lit by candle light and to walk the streets passing people holding torches is surreal.

We continue to experience small earthquakes every couple of days and every time we do we feel panic that another powerful earthquake has come which would be catastrophic if it was located anywhere near the nuclear plant, as it would surely lead to some form of meltdown.

The news of Fukushima has been frequent but also frustrating as we are given different information about the degree of danger that we face and possibility of harmful levels radiation leaking from the plant and reaching Tokyo.

Many people do not trust the Japanese government and the power company. Others feel that the French government has over-reacted by starting evacuations of its citizens from Tokyo.


What has really raised my spirits in this nightmare week has been the huge number of messages and e-mails that I've received from my family and friends from home and around the world. Friends from nursery, primary, secondary school and university have all got in touch.

Even after everything that I've been through over the past few days, after reading their messages, I feel truly blessed that so many people have taken the time to see if I'm ok.

I am going to become 29 years old next Tuesday and this Saturday night was supposed to be my birthday party at my local bar. I have decide to cancel it as the last thing anyone feels like doing is going out and celebrating.

I have heard that the UK government are now organising flights to Hong Kong for British nationals and a lot of my friends have already joined the exodus from Tokyo and gone to places like Kyoto, Osaka, Nagano and Hawaii.

I'm planning on staying in Tokyo for now.

If the British Embassy and the government advises us to leave then I'll have no choice but to get out of the city.

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