Quakebook: Twitter-Sourced Stories of the Japanese Earthquake


The March 11th earthquake that devastated parts of northern Japan is the strongest on record for the country. In the days following the 8.9 magnitude quake, a British resident of Abiko, a small city near Tokyo, decided to enlist the Twitter community to create an e-book titled 2:46: Aftershocks: Stories from the Japan Earthquake in order to deliver the proceeds to the Japanese Red Cross. Some of the respondents are celebrities or journalists, while others are just ordinary people who survived an extraordinary natural disaster. The 50-page book was made in about a week, and is accompanied by beautiful artwork and distressing photographs (some are featured below). If you haven’t donated yet, or if you’re just interested in what people on the ground experienced, you might want to pick up a copy.

Yoko Ono writes: “One year, John, my husband, Sean and I, were in a hotel in Tokyo. It was in the morning, and the earthquake suddenly hit three of us. I immediately grabbed Sean, who was still a little boy then. I went into an open closet, holding Sean tightly, and sat in there, kept repeating ‘Namyohorengekyo’… The earthquake John, Sean and I experienced was not at all like the one you just experienced. But still my body is now shaking tonight from the memory of it.”

Image credit: Daniel Freytag

Mari Kurisato in Colorado writes, “I’m afraid and tired, and I’m worried for my two friends who haven’t made contact. But I set aside my own feelings and translate and repost messages by the thousands, hoping that maybe one message will make a difference to one person… Useless? Naïve? Stupid? Maybe. But I keep doing it, because the only alternative I have is to stop, and fall apart at the horror of it all. がんばります (I’ll do all I can.)”

Image credit: Philipp Christoph Tautz

Yoshiko Ikeda writes about the girl below: “How old is she? 11 or 12? I wept, for the first time after the quake. Then I realized that there’s another person in the photo. Somebody wearing black socks is sitting right next to her. So, the girl is not alone, at least. I prayed, and remembered the place name ‘Nobiru.’ I googled and found it was a famous beach town in Miyagi Prefecture. The girl wore a green top. I shut off my computer.”

Image credit: Kiyomu Tomita

Yuki Wantanabe, whose hometown is in Fukushima prefecture, writes: “Please don’t abandon Fukushima. Please see the reality. Please give us accurate and timely information. Please get this nightmare power station under control as soon as possible. And please know that Fukushima is doing its best.”

Image credit: Mari Kurisato

Michael Gakuran writes: “Misinformation about radiation spread, overshadowing the plight of the people in the stricken areas of northern Japan. Even previously respectable newspapers seemed to be gripped by sensationalism and were not reporting the basic necessary, objective facts.”

Image credit: Chris MacKenzie

Brian Wood in Tokyo writes: “The aftershocks have been a constant at night. For several hours after the first major quake, my building felt like it was in continuous, swaying motion. You get kind of paranoid and feel like you are swaying even when nothing seems to be moving. Looking at something hanging or dangling from the ceiling or walls is a good way to tell if a quake is real or not. While I wait for aftershocks, I keep looking at that hanging ceiling-light.”

Image credit: Linda Yuki Nakanishi