OUPblog > History > Asia > Dispatch from Tokyo

Dispatch from Tokyo

By Michelle Rafferty


Last week we received a message from Miki Matoba, Director of Global Academic Business at OUP Tokyo, confirming that her staff is safe and well. This was a relief to hear, and also a reminder that although many of us are tied to the people of Japan in some way, our perspective of the human impact is relatively small.  So I asked Miki if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her experiences, and she kindly agreed. When she responded to my questions she wrote: “Hope my answers reflect a part of how we view the incidents as Japanese.”

1.) Where were you, and what were your thoughts as the earthquake hit?

I was in a meeting room with a visitor from OUP Oxford and my staff having a meeting when the earthquake started. You may find this weird but we all are very much living with earthquakes from a young age. So little shakes here and there are just a part of our lives. But not the one we had last Friday as that was the biggest one in some hundreds of years. What I normally think when earthquakes start is when shall I get up to secure the exit and go under the desk. Most of the time, you do not have to do either as it does not last long. But not this time. As the building started to shake for a while I opened the door of the meeting room thinking that this is a big one but should stop soon. But it did not. So we put ourselves under the table hoping for the shaking to cease. When it did not, I thought then that this is a serious one and something really severe will happen as a result.

Then we saw some white stuff coming down in the office (it was not fire – just some dust coming down from the ceiling) and someone shouted that we should leave NOW. So we did. I did not take anything. Just myself and those who were meeting with me, running down from 8th floor to the ground. Even when we were running down the stairs, it was still shaking. After a while, we went back to the office to get things as the decision was made very quickly to close the office for that day. Almost everything on my desk had either fallen over or was on the floor, and it was still shaking.

2.) Was anyone prepared?

Yes and no. As Japanese, we all are prepared for earthquakes but not for something of this size and the aftermath of it.

3.) How do you continue to manage your group at such a difficult time? Is it possible to work?

Try to communicate well. We email and also have set up an internal Twitter account that we tweet to, including who will go into the office and what they are doing as we are still mainly working from home. The situation is still very unsettling making it difficult to concentrate on work (power rationing, aftershocks and the nuclear power plant situation) but we try to process day-to-day things as usual.

4.) How would you describe the city right now (the business activity, the state of mind)?

Interesting question. I think Tokyo is normally one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Now the city is very quiet compared to normal. The weather has been clear and nice after Friday so it feels odd to be in this peaceful, quiet Tokyo under the sun after all that.

5.) I’ve heard radiation levels are higher than normal – is everyone staying inside?

We have lots of information going around including rumors. We live almost as normal – just listening to TV and radio all the time, watching the progress of the nuclear plant situation. I do not go out if that can be avoided.

6.) What do people outside of Japan need to know?

People outside of Japan need to know this is the risk we all live with. Japan is an extreme case right now but all of us are exposed to some kind of danger all the time. It is just that you do not notice it. It is similar to thinking that you live to die. The footage you must have seen repeatedly is just awful. But as I said in the announcement, Tokyo is much calmer, people keep to the rules and are helpful to others. We queue up, wait, don’t steal, and remain orderly.

7.) Do you have any suggestions for how we can help?

Try not to be too panicky. We are doing everything possible to keep things under control against the brutality of nature. Donate money if you can or pray for us.

*If you are looking for a list of donating options, I suggest Lauren’s recent on Japan post.   –Michelle

SHARE:
One Response to “Dispatch from Tokyo”
  1. Gajanan Taman says:

    It is comforting to know that Japanese do not lose their cool in the face of life-threatening situation.

Leave a Reply