ph_photo_t019.jpgYukie is raising three children while she runs a nursery with her husband. On that day, she went to Tokyo, leaving her husband to work. It was time for herself after so long. She was scheduled to listen to a lecture.

She left Iwaki in the morning, and then arrived at Oimachi station with venue in the afternoon. After she finished her late lunch, the building began to shake. "It's an earthquake." She thought the shaking would fit in immediately, but it turned out very unusual shaking. People in the restaurant ran out one after another, Yukie also rushed out. The station was filled with many people and they were in panic. She had to hold something to keep herself standing. She turned on TV to get information and she found video news that showed the earthquake and tsunami struck Tohoku area.

"I have to make sure that my family is safe." She trembled with anxiety chipping. The line was breaking up. There was long queue for the payphone.
But she noticed the card phone was available, she ran into the Kiosk and luckily she could buy a prepaid card which was the last one.
She pushed wrong numbers three or four times because of trembling. Finally she could push the correct numbers but the line didn't work.

It was already past 4 o'clock in the afternoon. Suddenly she got a text massage, "we are safe," that was sent by her husband. "My family is survived!" She wanted to know them she was also safe. She went into mobile shop to charge her battery. While waiting for a long queue, she found there was a laptop. "May I borrow this laptop?" She was finally able to send email to her family.

The trains haven't run yet. Oimachi station was finally closed. There was no way to get her back home. Yukie bought some food at Ito-Yokado (supermarket) behind the station, and went to ATM to withdraw some money. But ATM wasn't operated. So, all money she had was less than10,000 yen. There were no maps and radio waves. She couldn't contact her friends and relatives. The hotels seemed to be fully booked in around. It was getting darker and darker. She was a loss among the people. The only thing she could do was just to start walking to get her accommodation.

Then, luckily she found a hotel which open the lobby for refugees, and furthermore she could get a room around past 1o'clock midnight. So she was able to sleep with lying in bed for a while.

Next morning she caught the first train to get back home, but actually there is no trains and bus to Iwaki city. Yukie had to seek refuge to her friend's place in Wako city.

It seemed to be ordinary scene which was just like nothing had happened in Wako city.

The telephone line was disconnected from Wako too, and emergency dial and massage box for disaster were not available. (Iwaki city was not considered as a disaster area, so all the line was out of service at that moment.)

"I need to go home anyway." She could not stand in patiently to think about what had happened to her family. But cars and motorcycles could not be available yet because of shortage of gasoline and the roads were also closed to traffic.

At that moment, Yukie reminded that she toured 120 km long by bicycle when she was a college student. "It is the time to use bicycle."

Yukie didn't hear her friend who tried to stop her leave. Yukie bought a holding bicycle paid by credit card. It was 20-inch bicycle with three speed gears and colored pink for standing out at night time. She asked her friend to borrow 30,000 yen in cash, backpack and rain jacket. She picked up the spats at UNIQLO.

On the way back to friend's house, she got first telephone call from her husband since earthquake occurred.
"Joban line would take more than 1 month to get to work, so you have taken refuge in a relative's house in Tokyo for a while. We are fine," said her husband.
Yukie did not tell him a plan that she tried to go back to home by bicycle. Her husband might oppose because it was dangerous. So, she kept her plan secret from her husband.

She checked internet to explore the inland route which would not be damaged by tsunami. She divided the distance in two days to calculate her physical strength. At first night she planned to stay her friend's house in Mito city.
She left Wako city on 13th morning. She carried bicycle up on her shoulder to Toride station which train could run. Then, she started to move by bicycle.

She ran ahead to the north passing by long queue on highway. She moved 10-15km per an hour with her holding bicycle, stopped at every traffic lights, had to take detour to cross the bridge. Soon after riding a bicycle, pain shot through her bottoms. She had never felt the way was so long and who never knew what would happen next. So she talked to people at every shop where she dropped by to leave her footmarks.
Sometimes she met people walking ahead to home on their way. Under cold weather, they looked strange because they had business wears with sport shoes.

On 14th, she left Mito city for her home town, Iwaki. She stopped by a store and bought a massive of canned goods. Because she heard the news that people were suffered a shortage of food in Iwaki. She put them on her carriage and kept moving ahead as hard as she could.

When she passed by through Takahagi, she received a call from one of cycling companions when she was in college. "The nuclear power plant in Fukushima is exploding now! Are you sure that you are on the way?" "If the nuclear power plant is exploding, radiation does not spread right away. So I just move forward." Yukie said. She started to move again.

She received a call from her husband. It was second time since the earthquake occurred.
"Where are you now?" "Takahagi."
Silence remained for a while. He was confusing. "What!? Does train run to Takahagi now!?"
"No, not yet. I am here with my bicycle!"
She persuaded her husband to stay home even though he wanted to pick her up by his car. She doesn't want to be in any trouble while her husband was away from home and kept saving gasoline. She rushed to get to home.

One hour later, she found her house. "My house is survived!" It just made her happy.

She hugged her elder and second children who jumped their mother in tears. The youngest child was standing behind. She couldn't believe her mother was home now. Yukie stepped forward and hugged her tightly.

She listened to their story what had happened after disaster occurred; about work at nursery, taking care of their children with her mother in law, pick up water, check disaster information and so on. They also showed some pictures. After earthquake, her husband kept working almost without sleep.

"I thought family could always be together, but now I learned it's never granted."

"I thought if my family died. I fully regretted that I chose my interest, not my children. If it was a business trip, I wouldn't think it's my fault, but I took day off for my studies to listen to a lecture in Tokyo. Why was it today? How could do this happened?

I got tired physically to ride bicycle but I could not imagine how hard as my family had experienced at that time."


(Translated by Yuki Sakioka)