Japan’s Catastrophe 14


***NOTE: This Blog post has been edited by Newsweek Magazine for publication in it’s next edition***

As a photojournalist who aims to capture the beauty of our planet’s cultures, I left my hotel room on Thursday morning excited to document the manic energy of Tokyo’s sprawling megalopolis. There was no way I could have known that instead, I would end up taking pictures of one of the most frightening days of my life.

I had just emerged from the belly of the Tokyo Metro system, four floors beneath Shinjuku station, the world’s busiest train station. Thousands of commuters and tourists jammed parallel train platforms and the shops in the arcade. It was around 3 p.m. I was lined up at the Bullet Train ticket counter to inquire about a trip to Nagoya, some 200 miles southwest of Tokyo, to shoot some photos there tomorrow. It was then that I felt the ground move under me slightly — it was almost imperceptible, like a subway rumbling through a tunnel far beneath my feet. I ignored it, as did everyone around me. Then, seconds later, a violent shuddering. Things started crashing to the ground, and signs hanging from the ceiling began swinging violently. I looked at an elderly man next to me. He smiled back at me and said one word: “Earthquake.”

I ran for the door, about 60 feet away. The ground was shaking so violently that it was difficult to run in a straight line, like trying to sprint across the deck of a ship being tossed by swells. My heart was pounding when I reached the street and darted for a large park surrounded by skyscrapers; my mind replayed the image of the World Trade Center crashing to the ground.

The noise was unreal. You could hear the buildings creak and groan as they shook in their foundations. I wanted to get as far away from these buildings as possible, but in Tokyo, finding any truly open space is virtually impossible.

I turned to look at the building that I had just run out of; it was convulsing uncontrollably. You could still hear the ground rattling as thousands of people evacuated the buildings. I started to shoot photos of everything that was happening.

I stood in that park for a good two hours as did most everyone else.  During this time, the ground continued to tremble, albeit less violently. I would find out later that afternoon that the quake had measured 8.9 on the Richter scale, the strongest earthquake to hit Japan in recorded history. Some people were visibly shaken. There were a few women crying, people pointing up at the buildings as they shook, but many others appeared calm and relaxed.

Making my way back to my hotel was an epic journey. The rail system in Tokyo was completely shut down and millions were trying to make their way home on foot. The streets were gridlocked, but I didn’t learn how catastrophic the event had actually been until I got to my hotel and turned on the news. The coastal areas of Japan, especially a few hundred miles to the north, were devastated beyond recognition.

As I write this, the aftershocks are still hitting hard. I am on dry land and yet I feel seasick. I have lived through many frightening days — I nearly drowned last year while white-water rafting in Africa — but this earthquake will be forever burned in my memory as the most harrowing experience of all. I saw hundred-story buildings sway like palm trees in the wind as the earth revolted beneath my feet. Now, I think I have seen it all.

I took these shots minutes before the Earthquake hit as I exited the subway

I took these shots minutes before the Earthquake hit as I exited the subway

As I exited Shinjuku station, the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower swayed like a tree in the wind

As I exited Shinjuku station, the Mode Gakuen Cocoon Tower swayed like a tree in the wind

Some people ran for their lives, some were not bothered at all

Some people ran for their lives, some were not bothered at all

Many reactions and emotions as people look at buildings heaving and shaking during the 8.9 Earthquake

Many reactions and emotions as people look at buildings heaving and shaking during the 8.9 Earthquake

Even during a catastrophe, people exited their buildings with order

Even during a catastrophe, people exited their buildings with order

As buildings shook, locals leaned on them

As buildings shook, locals leaned on them

It took mere minutes for camera crews to arrive

It took mere minutes for camera crews to arrive

Cell phone and subway service were both suspended

Cell phone and subway service were both out

A few hours after the disaster, it was business as usual in Tokyo

A few hours after the disaster, it was business as usual in Tokyo

Millions of people making their way home on foot as train service was suspended

Millions of people making their way home on foot as train service was suspended

Subways evacuated and people walking along the tracks back to the stations

Subways evacuated and people walking along the tracks back to the stations

In Tokyo, it was hard to find any significant damage. Some small cracks and broken monuments

In Tokyo, it was hard to find any significant damage. Some small cracks and broken monuments

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ictiDfE3CqY[/youtube]

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2zsOJ0ckjVw[/youtube]


About Andrew Pateras

Andrew has lived in the GTA all his life and a good portion of his adult life has been devoted to sales. He studied Business Information Systems Management at Ryerson University. From there, he worked in sales for tier one organizations such as Hewlett Packard, Epson and Intel. Then as North American Sales Manager for GAP Adventures, he gained even more experience in negotiation and client service. Andrew has been a licensed real estate sales person since 2006. In 2007, Andrew also began a new venture in professional photography. Over the next number of years, he travelled on assignment all over the world. This is why he is meticulous when it comes to your marketing images! To say Andrew's travel and photography experience is extensive would definitely be an understatement. He has journeyed to remote and exotic locations in 48 countries on all six continents in search of adventure and authentic cultural experiences. Whether it is diving with great white sharks in South Africa, in a cage with Bengal tigers in northern Thailand or perched atop a land cruiser, photographing rhinos and lions in the Serengeti, he has likely photographed any holiday experience you can imagine. In 2015, Andrew earned the Directors Platinum award from Royal LePage for outstanding sales performance. Andrew's commitment as your real estate professional is to provide you with the specialized real estate service you deserve. Whether you're buying or selling, contact him with any questions that you may have. His promise to you is that your experience will be both stress-free and enjoyable. His focus is always YOU and the results you can expect from him.


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14 thoughts on “Japan’s Catastrophe

  • Sneha Kulkarni

    Hi andrew,

    A vivid description on your blog..glad to hear you are safe. I am talking to people in Toronto with family in and around the quake zone, and it seems like many are having a hard time reaching their loved ones. If you have access to a phone or skype we would love to chat with you to get your account of what happened.
    Please email me and let me know if we can arrange a time to chat this afternoon or if you can send us any of your pictures.
    Thanks and stay safe,

    Sneha

  • VH

    I got chills reading this; I can only imagine how surreal it must have been to have seen all that. Be safe; my thoughts and prayers are with everybody in Japan.

  • Eleni Daniels

    Andrew,
    Our radio interview today (March 11) for “All Things Greek” (wnye 91.5) sounded crystal clear. Just unbelievable.. The interview notice was announced on a 2,000+ member e-list.
    I’m looking forward to your other interviews. And like many, I await to see your photos.
    Be Safe!

    Thanks again,
    Eleni

  • Ches

    When I first your update on Facebook, I had forgotten that’s where you were. Can’t keep up with all your movements! But I’m glad you’re OK. and good for you on getting some big time exposure! Stay safe man.

  • Linda LaPierre

    Thank you so much for your talent & foritude! I pray you are able to get out tomorrow. I can hear the much concern in your voice as Fox spoke with you shortly ago 6:15am Pacific time here in the United States. My heart goes out to you & everyone hurting at this most horrendous event in history. I can not imagine how someone such as yourself places himself in danger in order to give us around the world incredible images. Yours were clear and vivid in comparison to anything else I saw on any channel. Fox should be indebted to you and I pray somehow someway you are paid for your courageousness! Thank you again and may you get home safe and sound and think twice before journeying out in the future! Maybe, think about staying in safer surroundings. GBU

  • Andrew Pateras Post author

    Thank you very much Linda. The Earthquake was manageable stress, but the situation with the reactor has me very concerned. I will continue to try and capture the feeling here. Thank you for your kind words. God Bless.

  • Thom

    Andrew:

    I listened to your interview this morning. Thank you for your accounts of what is taking place. I look forward to seeing interviews with you when you arrive home safely.

  • Lisa

    I heard you on the news and immediately came here! Please keep adding as much information and visuals as possible! Thank you very much and please stay safe.

  • Steve A

    Great article – i’ve posted it to my twitter and asked people to follow you. Keep us updated with articles and photos. Thanks.

  • Manan Abdul Ahad

    It seems that nobody knew that even greater calamity was following this catastrophic quake…take care and be back to ur home safe and quick cuz ur family there will be getting worried as we see so many problems arising daily in the quake hit country