Lessons learned from the Osaka Earthquake 2018

As many of you already know, there was an earthquake yesterday in Ibaraki/Takatsuki area, Osaka. It was a 6.1 and not really that big for Japanese standards or even world standards but it came in sudden and hard. Shook up everything and lot’s of people reported their interior being completely messed up. Ours included.

To skip my boring story and move straight to the tips (click here)

You’d say “nobody got hurt so we are lucky” and you’d be right. We were lucky. We were extremely lucky. The last picture of the series shows a toppled TV and chest. The chest in particular is what shocked me.

That chest is made of very heavy wood and all it’s drawers are filled with books and other stuff, making this extremely heavy and near impossible to move. Or so I thought. The “light” earthquake brought this down without a single problem.

What shocked me is that this could’ve been a serious incident with fatal results.

In the picture above, the green circle shows where we change the baby’s diaper every single day. The moment the earthquake happened, the missus had just finished changing the diaper and started giving milk. 5 minutes later and it would have been a different ending.

We’ve been too lax with our precautions. Living in a country that has at least 1500 earthquakes a year. We had too much stuff, too many things stacked on top of other things, it was an accident waiting to happen.

I was in the train when the earthquake happened. We almost arrived at Awaji Station when suddenly the train shook like it was hit by something. When the swaying slowly continued I realized it was an earthquake. In that same moment suddenly alarms on all phones in the train went off. Earthquake alarms. It’s a frightful sound.

After that the shaking stopped. The staff announced they were checking if everything was okay before resuming the ride.

I sent the wife a message. Went online and contacted friends to see if everyone in Osaka area was okay. 6.1, its a big earthquake but….Japan has had worse I thought to myself. Then my wife sent me the photos above. Then other friends sent me their pictures of their interiors messed up by the quake. Damn, this was bigger than expected.

An announcement was made.
“We are currently checking the status of the train but please don’t worry there is no tsunami risk”.

Then there were no announcements. We waited over 1,5 hour. I was continuously using my phone so the batterylife went down to 38% rapidly. Yikes. Better stop it or I can’t contact anyone later. Still no announcements made. “Hmmm, now would not be a good time to have to go to the toilet” I was thinking to myself. That got me a little nervous. The cold wind blowing in my neck didn’t help. I needed distraction. Out came the phone again. “No, no, I cant use it.” I put it back in my pocket.

This went on for a few minutes when suddenly a new announcement was made:
“The train will not drive any further. We ask everyone to move to the first carriage in the front of the train, where everyone will be able to get off and walk over the rail tracks to the station on foot. It’s less than 100 meters from here but be careful where you walk”.

I was in the middle of the train so disembarking took a little time. When we slowly moved to the front we could see the people getting off and walking in a line towards the station. It’s a weird feeling to walk somewhere where you usually aren’t allowed to, a different perspective. I looked up at the sky, it was clearing up, blue sky was visible through the clouds. Thank god it didn’t rain (especially now in the rainy season).

I climbed up onto the platform. There were a lot less people around than I expected. Almost empty. Trains didn’t ride so everyone had to find another way to get to work or go back. Of course I decided to go back. One way or another. Grab a taxi? Would be quite expensive, plus there was a huge crowd outside the station that had the same idea. Bus was no option as they only went to the opposite direction, Umeda, Osaka.

“I guess I’m walking from here.”

I don’t mind walking. In fact I love it. My grandfather used to walk. He participated in the Nijmegen 4 days marches in Holland. He had tons of medals for finishing these marches. Even at 80 years old.

I had to go back to Minami Ibaraki station where I parked my bike. The shortest route from Awaji station is about 10 km or a two hour walk, not too far. Besides I was hoping (expecting) to walk to the next station on the line and hopefully be able to grab a cab during my walk.

However, I couldn’t use my phone. By the time I started my walk I only had 5% left, so I could only use my instincts which…. I don’t have.

My instinct is basically…. ‘licking my finger and sticking it in the air’.

So the logical way is to walk next to the railroad as much as possible and follow it back to the next station. One station at a time. At least moving towards my destination. The closer I get the cheaper the cab fare. Win-win.

The roads next to the rail tracks were quite desolate. Few to no cars, so I thought If I continued in the same direction but follow the bigger roads I had more chance of catching a cab. I kept my eye on the rail tracks as I walked, but still no empty taxi’s to be found. The ones that did happen to pass by, which if I remember correctly have only been….four, were either taken or had a sign turned on that said “reserved”. “pffff, lucky sobs”.

I passed a small bicycle shop on the way. I stopped. “Maybe it’s a good idea to buy a bike and ride my way back instead of walking. Definitely will be faster.” I thought. But even though bicycles are relatively cheap in Japan, the cheapest one I could find was 11000 yen for a second-hand bike. It would be helpful but more expensive than a cab-fare and I already have a bike so yea….pass.

I was suppose to have a meeting at work that day, so I was wearing my suit. The dress-shoes weren’t that comfortable to walk in. When I neared Aikawa station my feet started to get painful. “Of course, today of all days I’m wearing shoes that are not good for walking.” But keep thinking positive, my hope for grabbing a taxi beat that of my feeling of pain. Just keep moving, just keep moving.

Somewhere in the middle, I lost track of the rails. I had to go to a nearby conbini and ask for directions. Unfortunately I deviated too much and there was no other option than to walk to the next station which was on a 20 minute walk from there… in these shoes.

“20 minutes? How did I deviate that much from my route?” I have pretty good sense of direction if I say so myself. In pain, I kept walking slowly, step by step toward the nearest station. It was a long straight road and with the painful feet, looked longer and longer every step I took. After 20 minutes I finally arrived at the station.


Hmmm. That is not the Hankyuu line.

It seems that I had already mistaken the route before even arriving at the first station Kami-Shinjo. I probably followed a different track (shinkansen line) after I moved to the bigger roads. Trains not riding didn’t help much either because I would be able to distinguish them from one-another.

But it was not all bad news. The monorail line would also lead me to Minami-Ibaraki, just a small detour. But my feet were killing me. I had to sit down and take a break, I couldn’t walk anymore. I opened my bag and then suddenly realized something.



I totally forgot but I brought my gym clothes with me.

And along with my gymclothes….

a nice pair…

of comfortable….


F*ck fashion at this point. A suit with sneakers. I don’t give a crap. I just want to make it home.

I put on my shoes.

“Ahhhhhhh, so nice and soooo comfy”.

Only 3 stations left. Settsu Station…. then Sawaragi Station…Almost there…300 m….200m ……100m. Finally…

Minami Ibaraki!

After a three hour walk, I finally arrived at the station. Sweating, painful feet and legs and exhausted. Gramps, my respect for you walking a 4 times longer distance is so much more now.

In front of the station was a very long line of people waiting for a cab. Not sure how long they waited but at least it looked like they wouldn’t go anywhere anytime soon. I grabbed my bike and raced home.

When opening the door, it was worse than the pictures. Glass broken everywhere, plants that had been watered mushy wet soil scattered everywhere, cats water bowl that slid over the floor and made it even worse. It was one big f*cking mess. Where to start? Somewhere, anywhere. But make sure you wear shoes or slippers with a thick sole as not to slice the bottom of your feet on glass and absolutely take down small stuff that are still on top of shelves so that it won’t fall in the after-shocks.

The exact route I walked.

So after yesterday here are 10 tips I can share. I have a LOT more but these 10 are the most important ones. If you have any, please don’t hesitate to let me know. Would be good to share.

1. Minimize? Minimalize? your interior.
Too much stuff, small items, whether on the table, on a shelve or inside the closet, just means more stuff that can fly around during earthquakes and create damage or injure you. Keep it simple and minimal.

2. Avoid glass when you can.
We had tons of glasses, dishes and Delfts blue ceramics. While glass and ceramics is nice to have or nice to drink from, after an earthquake cleaning up is going to be a real hassle and can be even dangerous. You really have to watch out for tiny glass splinters after cleaning up.

3. Extra phone battery.
I think this is pretty straight forward. Especially iPhone batteries dry up FAST. Consider buying an external battery for emergencies.

4. Always bring good walking shoes.
Only IF you are wearing shoes unfit for walking (like with a suit), I recommend bringing a pair of sneakers or shoes that are comfortable for walking long distances.

5. Write down ICE numbers.
ICE = In Case of Emergencies. Your phone ran out of batteries? Wanna call the missus from a payphone? Oh wait, what was her number again. Well at least in my case. I don’t remember anyone’s phone-number. You only need a small tiny piece of paper, you can put that paper anywhere. I have it inside between my phone’s case and my phone. Now that I think of it, LAMINATE it so that it can’t get wet.

6. Bottle of water.
This one is also straight forward. Always keep a bottle of water on you.

7. Don’t stack things too high at home.
The higher you stack, the harder it can hurt you when it comes falling down. If you do stack things, make sure to keep the heaviest stuff at the bottom.

8. Don’t hang anything on walls.
Might be nice decoration and lovely to have family photos on walls. I know we had. But be prepared it to fly from the walls and damage things below or hurt you.

9. Put locks on cabinets and the fridge
Put locks on cabinets with tableware and dishes or the fridge to prevent things from falling out during an earthquake.

10. Keep an emergency package near the entrance door.
A small compact backpack with emergency goods! Near the entrance. Not in the storage. Not too heavy, although 2 bottles of 2 Liters water are already quite heavy. I’ll elaborate exactly what to put inside in a different blog post.

And for gods sake, don’t assume something will not fall a certain way or topple over a certain way just because you placed them a certain way. Make sure you have everything cleaned up and some hooks or locks in place for items that can topple over. Because an assumption that is wrong can ruin your life.

Be smart, use common sense and stay safe.

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