I am now in the Japan Sea coast city of Kanazawa, unaffected by the tremors. I do not have any friends in any danger. When the earthquakes struck, I was 500 miles away in Hiroshima with a group of American tourists. The first I knew of it was when I turned on the TV at my hotel.
On the screen the newscasters were wearing helmets. I could see Tokyo was shaking, and there were stories of trains and towns disappearing up north. Live footage showed houses, their rooves just visible above the water, floating speedily down roads that had become rivers.
From my travels I know the tsunamis have hit one of the poorest areas in Japan. Farming and fishing aside there are not many jobs. A high proportion of vulnerable elderly people live there, many of them alone, their children having moved to Tokyo to get work. For those surviving, without electricity or heating in temperatures below freezing, conditions must be horrendous.
Last March I visited the affected area with a friend. We visited Kesennuma, currently one of the worst hit coastal towns. We stayed in a cheap minshuku (guest house) near the port.
A jovial lady in her late 30s wearing big black leather boots ran the minshuku. Full of smiles and very down-to-earth, she could not have been more welcoming.
That evening, the lady guided us to a great izakaya (pub style restaurant). She also walked us around the fish market the next morning. Even our personal hygiene issues and obvious hangovers did not upset her enthusiasm. Her kindness and good humour was the highlight of our trip.
There is no way of knowing her situation right now, other than at best, she`s jobless and homeless, along with tens of thousands of others.