Japan Quake Rpt: Batten Rpt

This is a personal account of the effects of the quake from Jim D. Batten, Chancellor of the Ibaraki Christian Education Community.

Wake of the Quake – Revised April 1, 2011

We appreciate all the calls and notes we have received, and want to let everyone know that we (all of Jim Batten’s family in Japan) are OK. The worst damage was from about 60 miles north of us and to the north along the Pacific coast. The earthquake caused plenty of damage, but the tsunami that came minutes later completely wiped out whole communities to our north. It also caused a lot of destruction to the Hitachi port area. They are now working hard to open the transportation and communication lines to the north. The Joban train line (the one goes from Tokyo through the worst hit areas) was badly damaged and is completely out of service. They have recently opened service from Tokyo to Katsuta (3 stations away from the one we use), which has less damage than that on north. They say services should be restored to the Hitachi area by mid-April. In the worst hit area track and bed are completely wiped out.

Because of the damage there has been a lot of panic buying all over Japan which has further overloaded the system to the point that store shelves are bare in many stores. In our area we are beginning to see some food back on the shelves now, and there are no longer lines of people trying to get into the store. However, many shelves are still bare. Gasoline and heating fuel is another problem. There was a long waiting line…3 or 4 hours…to get gasoline, and then individuals were limited to 5 gallons. This week stations have fewer lines and limits have been lifted to 10 gallons.

Below I have collected notes I wrote during the ordeal.

March 11 from @2:30PM

When the quake hit my wife was in the beauty shop getting her hair cut and I was outside in the garden tilling and getting ready for planting. She had just had her hair washed and they had put the rinse treatment on it when the quake hit. They of course stopped right there and the beautician voluntarily brought her home in his own car. (He’s one of my favorite people now.) She spent 5 days with that treatment…no water to wash it out.

I was using the tiller, so I was feeling the vibrations from the machine, but all of a sudden the vibration magnified to where I could hardly stand up. Thought I was getting too old to do this kind of work, or something. I shut the machine off, but I was still hardly able to stand and looked up toward the house. It was swaying from side to side and jumping up and down. My eyes went to the left and saw the tiles on the roof of a neighboring apartment building dancing around on the roof, waltzing to the edge, then falling to the parking lot below. I could not walk for a while because I was fighting to keep my balance. The big one lasted for around 5 minutes…the longest 5 minutes in my life. I don’t know what I did the next few minutes. Somehow I got the tiller out of the garden and back on the cement slab at the back of the house. I was only 30 steps away from the house, but it seemed it took 30 minutes to get there.

I finally did make it to the house and it was still intact. I opened the door and little seemed wrong in the entryway. However, when I opened the door to the living room it hit broken dishes that were all over the floor. The beautician brought Michiyo home by his own car about that time. They had to drive around a lot of debris from fallen walls. When we looked in, our living room floor was piled with broken dishes that had jumped out of the shelves during the quake. We lost almost half our dishes. (My printer had also fallen off the desk on the second floor. Although the plastic case was cracked, it still works fine!) Other than a few broken tile in the entry way and on the wall of the bathroom, the structure seems to be OK.

No electricity, no gas, no water. The emergency radio system was working and soon we were told there was a great danger of tsunami. Since we are on a hill about 1/2 mile from the beach, we figured we would be safe. After the fact we learned that the waves had come up to about half the height of the hill we live on. We waded through the broken ceramic and glass cleaning a trail. Michiyo got out all the candles we had. We ate supper by candle light in a cold, messy house… very romantic. The rest of the night, until morning we could hardly sleep. Aftershocks came every few minutes.

Our house seems to have no structural damage, but every shelf and wall was left almost bare, and loose shelves were also on the floor. Everything was on the floor. We lost at least half our dishes. We are still cleaning up the mess. More than the mess, we have to deal with the lack of water and heat. Luckily we are in a much warmer area than Sendai and other places north. We heard the reports of the damage to the north on the emergency radio and were thankful we were not hit as hard. It felt like we had been transported back to the 17th century. Candles for light and cooking on charcoal outside…not really the kind of “camping” we have been used to.

March 12

We started early cleaning up and putting all the broken things in bags and taking them to the garage. At 7 AM we heard the announcement on the radio that they were distributing drinking water at a community center very near us. I got in line and got some water. Since we didn’t have enough water to use our toilet, I dug a hole in the garden. Luckily we had one place where bushes and trees gave us privacy. Aftershocks continue a number each hour.

Window damage of chapel on ICU campus.

I went to school to see how it had fared. There was some damage to campus buildings, but at that point it looked like all were still structurally OK. We lost two huge windows out of the chapel building. We have yet to know whether the buildings are structurally safe.

I learned that when the quake struck the high school and junior high were having “home room” and about to be dismissed. All were safely guided outside to the sports ground. Since the trains and busses weren’t running, students were taken to the gymnasium, where students and teachers and staff spent a sleepless night. Many parents came to get their children, but many had to spend the night in the gym without any communication from their families. City workers came by on Saturday around noon and brought rice balls and drinking water to those who were still here.

March 13

There weren’t many at church today, but all that were there were OK. The church building passed the shake test with flying colors, but no water, gas or electricity. We finally got our electricity back at our house around 3PM. No water or gas yet, but we are thankful we weren’t hit as bad as those north of us. Since the phones are out I decided to drive to the city of Mito (about  20 miles away) to see how Michiyo’s aunt was doing. She lives alone and I was afraid she might have fallen or been injured. Round trip usually takes 2 or 3 hours. Because of the roads and having to detour it took me almost double. She was OK, but her house was a real mess.


After the big quake (registering 6+ in our area) on the 11th we had more than 200 aftershocks that registered 4 or above in a three day period. Aftershocks are still shaking us daily. One Sunday night (3/20) was 5+. Because of these aftershocks the buildings have suffered more damage. It now looks like McMillan Hall, the first college building built (1966) may be partially or totally unusable.

Church Buildings

Church buildings in the area were shaken, but most seem to be still usable. The Omika church building, where we worship, was blessed, no visible damage. I heard the Nakaminato (about 10 miles from us) and the Hachinohe (Aomori prefecture) church buildings are not usable, and there was some damage to a few others. However, at this time I have not heard of any loss of life in the churches or among IC’s faculty, staff and student body.


The first weeks after the quake was very cold and blankets and warm clothing was a dire need in the worst hit area north of us, but that is slowly changing now. Rather than collecting and sending things, the greatest help is financial. We can buy the necessary goods in the Tokyo (and further south) area and transport them to answer pinpoint needs. PLEASE do not send used clothing or food from the USA. It is expensive to ship and may get here and rot in storage before we can find a specific need to fill. Financial help is the best.


In our area water, electricity and gas have been off for a week for many who still have homes. Heating fuel and gasoline are very difficult to come by. Breakdown of the supply lines have caused these problems. We are seeing signs of recovery in our area, but further north the recovery is going much slower.

On top of all this, the nuclear plant explosions added more stress. We are far enough away as to be relatively safe, according to what is being said on the news. That gives us some comfort, and we are thankful we don’t have to evacuate. We are 80 miles south of the atomic energy plant that is having problems. At this point the area being monitored most closely is within a 50 mile radius of the plant. There have been some scares regarding radiation, but at this point we are waiting and praying for the best.

We are just now coming to terms with what has and is happening and starting to think beyond our own changed world. Christians from various communities are trying now to band together and use our resources and manpower in ways best to address problems in our communities. The Mito church has agreed to be the central point of contact for financial help from abroad. [Editor: go to this link to see how you can help financially.]

Campus damage

Wall from Kiara Hall on ICU campus.

As mentioned above, we lost the large windows out of the second floor of the chapel building, and in the aftershocks have had some of the inside rock wall to break and fall. McMillan Hall has a lot of cracks and may be unusable. The auditorium, Logan Fox Hall, was refurbished last year and seems to be OK. Other buildings have some windows out, but seem to be structurally sound.

I am trying to arrange a place on our campus to be used as the warehouse and communication office for sending out volunteers and resources for recovery through a Christian relief organization. There are thousands of rescue centers (refugee camps) now that are full of homeless, and all seem to be understaffed. The rescue mode is now changing to recovery mode, and we hope to be able to use the resources available to help people make it through this difficult period. So many to the north of us are not only without a home but also without a place to work, without a physical “home” for their community…all has been washed away by the powerful tsunami.

Damage in Kiara Hall on ICU campus.

My friends and family have been a tremendous encouragement to me. Your prayers and notes have given me strength. Your concerns about our health and welfare is deeply appreciated. I cannot but believe that the Lord has prepared me for this very moment in Japan. Along with my work in the school here, I can help in the necessary communication between contributors abroad and the churches here. I have no intention of leaving the people and place that I believe God has placed me in for His glory. I am fully aware of the dangers but feel this is my place and responsibility. May God use this tragedy for His glory and the furtherance of His Kingdom. Your continued prayers are deeply appreciated.

In Him, Jim Batten