As yesterday’s post said, my journey home turned out to be more difficult than I had expected. Our reasoning turned out to be correct – Virgin had indeed sent their flight crew to Nagoya rather than keep them in Tokyo.
But that’s not what I wanted to write about.
The flight out of Tokyo was not very busy – there were lots of empty seats on the plane (despite press reports of people fleeing) and once everyone was on board, I was able to move up and take a seat at the exit, with lots of lovely legroom. A Japanese gentleman did the same. He was a former reporter with very good English (and fond memories of Ireland), so we chatted for a while. He couldn’t believe my earthquake story of being up Tokyo Tower. And I couldn’t believe his earthquake story either. I’m sure he won’t mind if I repeat it here.
When he retired, he bought a boat to sail around the world single-handed, which he did. He was still living on that boat, as he hadn’t been able to sell it since his voyage. He was at a shop when the quake hit, and took cover out the back in a garden where there weren’t electric wires to come down (a danger I hadn’t considered, but one that must be significant when you look at the power cables strung along each street in Tokyo). When the shaking stopped, he raced off to make sure his boat was okay in the tsunami he now expected. The first wave of the tsunami broke 4 of the 5 mooring ropes, leaving him with just one, but his boat was still intact. He left the boat again to seek help getting it secured when someone pointed behind him to where the second wave was coming. He saw his boat go into the air, and come down, and break. At that, he ran for higher ground.
He spent a few days in a refugee centre, but not unsurprisingly it was pretty depressing, so he headed for his brother’s in Tokyo by train. He made it most of the way (including detours through the Fukushima exclusion zone), but once he got to Tokyo the trains weren’t running for him to get all the way, so his brother had to come and get him in his car. With the petrol shortages, they weren’t sure they’d make it back, but they did. He then headed for the airport, and booked a flight to London, where I think he has family.
His boat wasn’t insured (apparently you can’t for round the world trips at his age), so this is a man who I guess has lost everything he had. It made me realise that everyone on that plane must have had their own earthquake story, of where they had been, and what had happened. A sobering thought.
But I wish that guy well for the future.