Voices from FUKUSHIMA Vol.7 Ms. Mikiko MATSUNO

Facing the immensity of the earthquake, one could do nothing but laugh.
March 11; the day of the earthquake was a very calm day. At 2:46 p.m., it arrived. It was the 2011 off the Pacific coast Tohoku Earthquake. The rumblings of the ground sounded from afar. Even before the earthquake came, I had sensed that it must be gigantic, and was braced myself up. Nevertheless, the immensity of the earthquake was beyond all expectations. We could not guess what was happening rather than being taken fright. I even had a time to chat to my husband. “When is it going to stop?” “I don’t know.”
That day, my 8th-grade daughter was already at home because it was the graduation day of her school and she was back home earlier than usual. She entered my room smilingly and said, “I feel like I’m in the car.”
Dozens of tiles fell down at one burst with a big noise. Hearing it, my daughter and I exclaimed, “That’s horrible!” It was so enormous that we could do nothing but to laugh. I thought this must be an earthquake of the Miyagi coast which had been said to happen someday. I went outside to clear a mess of tiles, and there happened aftershocks over and over again. Tiles fell at every tremor, but looking up to the roof, I continued to clear tiles. I managed to clear a passage so that we could get our car out. Then I remembered that the elementary school which my son attended had not yet been made earthquake-resistant. I was worried about the children and said to my daughter, “I have to go to the school,” but she said she preferred to stay at home to clear the rooms. However, I insisted that she should come with me and took her to the school with me in the car.
At that moment, more than 20 minutes had passed since the first quake.

Surmounting the massive tsunami with all my strength
I experienced the Miyagi coast earthquake when I was a kindergartener. I remember that it was also enormous. But at that time, the tsunami rose by about 50cm only and caused no damage. Indeed, no one expected nor imagined, I think, that the earthquake would cause an unmeasurably enormous tsunami, and consequently there were many death casualties.
Having no idea of the tsunami, I found my son in the schoolyard, and saw other children shuddering with the cold and fear. I said to my daughter, “Let’s go home to get blankets.” I went home with her and asked her to take all the blankets out of the closet. In the meantime, I wanted to go to the wharf to get the light truck which my husband drove to the fishing port to have a look at his boat. I went near to the port, but not up to the quay, and therefore did not notice at all that the tide was on the ebb, which was a sign of a tsunami. He already took his boat out offshore.
When the sea level rises, fishermen take their boats out offshore to avoid collisions with other boats, or being stranded on the quay at the full tide.
He had never imagined that he would cross over the tsunami as gigantic as this. If he knew it, he would have never taken his boat out offshore. He later said it was an experience incredibly terrifying.
After crossing over a wave of about 4m, he looked back over his shoulder towards the shore. The wave got over the breakwater. He wondered whether it inundated the land above the floor level. However, when he turned his eyes again upon the sea, he saw a wall of wave right in front of him that he had never seen before. He told me that he had just managed to get over the wave with the engine at full power as if he was running on the wave.
Looking again toward the land, he saw his birthplace swallowed by the tsunami in an instant, and there was nothing left: his house, the fishermen’s union house where he used to unload fish on land every day. He told me that his mind had gone completely blank. He even thought he could never meet his family again.