Tokyo’s Irish community has escaped serious harm after Friday’s 9.0 magnitude earthquake, the fifth largest in recorded history.
The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has made contact with up to 10 people they had been concerned about.
DFA believe none of the estimated 2,000 Irish people in Japan were injured or killed in the massive quake that sparked tsunami warnings in the region, and briefly, in Australia.
Andy O’Doherty (29), from Greystones, works in IT about 20km west of Tokyo and runs the Irish Network Japan. He was on the third floor of his office building when Friday’s earthquake struck.
“The place was rattling and there was a lot of computers falling off the shelves,” said Mr O’Doherty, who sought refuge under a table with colleagues.
The city’s trains were shut down on Friday so he walked for five hours to get home.
Dublin tour guide Richard Flanagan came to Tokyo to take a three-week Japanese language course and found himself amid powerful tremors.
“People from the offices around were out on the pavement standing away from the high rise buildings, traffic was running normal, with the buildings shaking — the air conditioning and ventilation units on the one next door were vibrating like mad,” he told the Irish Echo, by email.
Mr Flanagan said it was only afterwards, when he reached nearby Izakaya and saw television reports, that the scale of the disaster struck.
Blacko Muiri (39), a musician from Howth, was with his Japanese wife at their Shinjuku home when they felt violent shakes.
“It just started like a normal shake and then it just got violent for a couple of minutes. As soon as it stopped, I just grabbed my wife and said ‘we’re leaving’, as there is a lot of open spaces near me,” said Mr Muiri.
He said the last few days had been ‘eerily quiet’, though Tokyo’s residents were attempting to get on with their lives. “People are just getting on with it, they are a very stoical nation.”
“It’s a little bit of a scary, subdued atmosphere,” said Mr O’Doherty, who has friends in tsunami-ravaged Sendai. “You just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Mr O’Muiri said he is not concerned about the ongoing efforts to cool down the nuclear plant at Fukushima, 250km north of Tokyo.
Japanese PM Naoto Kan has described the situation at the quake-hit reactor as ‘alarming’.
Mr O’Muiri said he has faith in the Japanese authorities.
“There’s no doubting the Japanese for complete, outright efficiency. I would imagine they are doing 100 per cent and everything they can to avoid that getting worse.”
If events deteriorate, he and his wife plan to leave Tokyo and travel Ishikawa, in Japan’s west. “We’re not even thinking of going there yet, it could be a lot worse.”
The Irish Network Japan plans to hold a number of earthquake fundraisers next weekend.
By Luke O’Neill