Nearly Swept Away


Sendai resident Eddie Robledo

My friend Eddie is an East L.A. native who’s been living in Sendai for the past decade. He teaches English and happily lives with his Japanese wife in a Sendai suburb called Nagamachi.

On the night I met up with him, we ended up at a Mexican restaurant, of all places. It’d been a while since I had a Japanese taco, a.k.a. a meal devoid of actual Mexican spices. Surprisingly, it wasn’t bad. There was even Tabasco sauce on the table. Though we both wondered how chicken fingers ended up on the menu.

Eddie was teaching in a nearby city called Shiogama on March 11.  An early-warning alarm rang just before anyone could actually feel the tremor. Then, he and his coworkers gathered outside under a door overhang and watched as traffic poles and wire-lines swayed around them. The quake seemed endless; he and his coworkers were able to carry on entire conversations as they waited for the ground to calm down. Most people felt the earthquake for over five minutes.

Soon after it was over, Eddie got into his car and headed toward his next school assignment in Matsushima. He admits he was foolish for not considering the possibility of a tsunami (though if I were in his place, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me either). There were two routes he could have taken: Route 45, near the coast, or Route 8, further inland. On that day, he just happened to choose Route 8.

On the way there, he saw an inlet where fishing boats normally docked. The ocean water was sucked away and boats were left on their sides in the mud. He pulled into the school only to see people fleeing the building. He knew the ride home would be long, so he ran to a bathroom. Classrooms were a mess, but there was no time to worry about that. He ran into a former student who told him that, whatever he did, he should not take Route 45. Later on, the news reported that many evacuees on that road had succumbed to the tsunami.

Nearly seven hours later, after battling grueling stop-and-go traffic and an abrupt snow blizzard, Eddie returned home to Sendai. He ran upstairs to his condo and had a Hollywood disaster film-like reunion with his wife, Rie. Their house was shaken beyond recognition, but at least they were both safe.


View previous posts in this series HERE. Email me at audreyshiomi [at]gmail to read Eddie’s personal account.


Views expressed in this blog series are not necessarily those of Rafu Shimpo.



  1. Great article, Eddie is a friend of mine in Sendai.
    March 11th was a mad event, recovery is still ongoing.
    Cheers Dom

  2. Thanks for the pictures, as hard as they were to look at. It was so mviong, seeing the items waiting there to be collected by their owners. My aunt, who lives about 10 miles north of Sendai, is forced to live in the bottom 3 rooms of her house since the earthquake. The tsunami didn’t destroy it but the earthquake made the upstairs unsafe to live in and she doesn’t have the resources for repairs. Cousins in Sendai are still working to pull their lives together with businesses and homes completely lost. It’s so easy to forget that the struggles for Japan will most likely last at least a generation.

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