The Present Condition of Ibaraki Prefecture (Updated Edition)~Part1

~The Break News about the Present Condition of Ibaraki Prefecture~

Professor Osamu Takahashi of Ibaraki University


At the East Japan Earthquake which occurred at 2:46pm on May 11th 2011, a tremor with an intensity of 6 on the Japanese seven-stage seismic scale was recorded in Ibaraki Prefecture. The long term quakes and the Tsunami which broke out right after the quake brought tremendous damage to each area of our prefecture. This report will inform you in chronological order about the confusion which I experienced at the quake, the subsequent changes and the present circumstances which I noticed are connected to the upcoming activities of rescuing historical materials.

The following was the information which I personally integrated, so it is obvious that they have their limitations. Even though there might be some factual mistakes please correct them on another day. Anyway, I will show you my experience and information based on my personal inspection.

1.The situation as of today(3rd/April)~memoirs

When the earthquake occurred, I was in my study which was located on the second floor in the block of the faculty of Humanities on the Mito campus of Ibaraki University and coaching my students. The quake continued intensively for a long time, so the books on the shelves fell onto our heads, and we were literally buried by them. All staff and students of the university immediately evacuated to the schoolyard, and people were prevented from entering school buildings due to the frequent aftershock. Additionally, the entrance examination which was to be held the next day was suspended right away.

The mobile phone network was completely out of order. Two hours after the quake occurred, when I got away from the university, I saw that stone and brick walls were destroyed here and there, and there was a long line of people in front of the convenience stores. Petrol had already sold out. Many houses whose roof tiles had fallen were observed. The traffic signals were not working, so vehicles on the highway ground to a halt, and the whole JR railroad service was suspended right after the quake. I heard that a lot of people who commuted from outside of the prefecture stayed at the public institutions as evacuation stations in Mito City, or headed to their homes on foot.

There were some witnesses stating that the water of the Nakagawa River ran back near the Chitose Bridge which was located around 10km headways of the estuary and was to the north of Ibaraki University. This turned out to be wrong afterwards though, as the coastline area in the prefecture was struck by the Tsunami 30 minutes after the quake, and was gravely damaged.

My home in Kasama City which was located adjacent to Mito City had a blackout soon after the quake, and shortly the water supply was also cut off. I didn’t have a radio with dry batteries, so what I could only do was to watch the TV on the mobile phone as I was but I was concerned of running down the remaining battery, but the information was quite limited. The next day, lifelines were still out. The retail stores and some convenience stores just sold their slight stocks, all of the major supermarkets were closed. For this reason, my family unwillingly took shelter in my parent’s home in Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture. After we moved there, I could at last grasp the present condition of the disaster. The news broadcasted the shocking incident that the Kodokan of the Mito Domain’s school was destroyed and Okakura Tenshin(*)’s Rokkakudo had been washed away. Especially the latter was a cultural property which was owned by our university, so I was really shocked.

At night on March 13th, we could return home. The lifelines were gradually reinstated on the 14th, we could turn on the lights, and could use the water supply although it was frequently suspended. However, the railroad services entirely stopped, and we couldn’t get any petrol so small gas stations closed, and there was a long line of people waiting for petrol at the big gas stations. Even though we waited for over an hour, we couldn’t get any, and such situation continued for the time being.

After the quake, we have to obey the rules restricting us to stay in the university buildings for a long time, so we were told to stand by at home though, I tried to go to university on 15th by bicycle. The distance between the university and my home was over 20km. As I cycled on the road to the university, I got a chain mail stating that the nuclear plant in Tokai village had also exploded the same as in Fukushima. As I looked around, I felt there were no vehicles heading east. Therefore, I hastily turned back and rushed in to the supermarket which had partially started its sales, however after a minute I realised that this was mistaken information, but I returned to my home. The next day, I retried to go by bus. But the bus didn’t come. The driver of the bus which came from the opposite direction told us that the bus bound to Mito was caught up in the traffic jam caused by the people who were waiting for petrol. For that reason, I abandoned going on this day, too. Eventually, I could reach the university on the 17th by bicycle.

Although the buildings of the faculty of Humanities were not seriously damaged, it seemed that books and materials were scattered in each study room. Almost all books in the library had fallen from their shelves, so there was no telling when it would be opened. I heard that the department of engineering in Hitachi City, the northern area of the Prefecture, was gravely affected. The server in Hitachi Campus was also down, so we couldn’t use official e-mails after the quake so we remained unable to contact the university staff.

On 23rd March, instead of the graduation ceremony which had been suspended, the ceremony for awarding degrees was held. The participants of the graduation seemed to be only four out of ten. On the week starting the 28th, we could gradually get enough petrol, and the lines of people at the gas stations were also getting shorter. The shelves for the commodities in supermarkets were filled with merchandise too. The Joban Railway plans to reconstruct transport links by April 30th. Although we could still observe a lot of houses whose roofs were covered with vinyl sheets, the area around Mito City is getting calmer little by little through till the end of March. We could find the craftsmen who worked for restoring roofs and walls here and there. (to be continued)

*Okakura Tenshin(岡倉天心): 1862-1913. A Japanese scholar of arts, who contributed to preserving Japanese arts and culture, and well-known as the author of “The Book of Tea”.


About Nerwork for Historical Materials
A volunteer group for preserving Cultural Heritage suffered from natural disasters

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