Kim ‘11 in Japan when quake struck

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By Brian Karimi

Hyung Jun Kim ’11 was in Tokyo, Japan last term when the earthquake hit on March 11. Kim was studying Japanese on an independent term abroad.

The quake struck at around 12:46 p.m., while Kim was at school.

“At first I felt weird. I had never experienced an earthquake. Then I felt my heart split. That’s the only way I can express the feeling,” remembers Kim.

After about an hour, Kim and his classmates could no longer stand. The quake became a five on the Richter scale. The tremors would last about five minutes, stop for approximately 25 minutes, then begin again in a cycle that lasted three hours.

Until Kim left Japan on March 16, tremors persisted every two to three hours. These shocks were barely noticeable in comparison to those that rocked the city when the quake first hit.

On the day of the quake, trains and subways were shut down. Those who could not take taxis or walk to their destinations slept in stations. On the day after the quake struck, Kim went to a convenience store in search of food. All the bread and water had been sold. There was only soda.

Kim remembers being most concerned about the radiation from disrupted nuclear facilities. Foreigners were more concerned scared than the Japanese, both about the earthquake and the resulting radiation. School, for example, was canceled for only three days. Stores remained open, and on the day after the quake people could been seen gambling in Tokyo’s casinos.

There was not a sense of chaos. There was, for example, no wide-spread looting in the city, as is often the case after natural disasters. When asked why this was the case, Kim explained the high sense of citizen spirit in the Japanese.

“They tend to think about their nation more than the individual with respect to other nations,” he said.

Parts of the city endured scheduled blackouts in order to conserve electricity. The airports were flooded with foreigners trying to leave, and tickets were around five times more expensive than usual.

But Kim did get a ticket. He is safe back with us here at Union.

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