Information officer Rika Miyamichi was at work in the FAO liaison office on the Yokohama seafront south of Tokyo when the earthquake struck on 11 March. She gave her personal account of what happened.
I was chatting happily on Skype with FAO information officer Teresa Buerkle in Washington during my lunch hour, watching the ocean as calm as it could be from our office on the waterfront. Our director, Mitsuhiro Yokoyama and programme officer Kae Mihara were in their offices, and my colleague Maiko Mori was in the office library.
Our liaison officer, Yugo Matsuda, was travelling back to the office on the metro after a meeting with plant protection and production division director Shivaji Pandey, who was in Japan for a seminar and had a flight out at 2.30pm.
The first quake hit at 2.46pm. It began vertically and then travelled horizontally. I got out of my room and called out to Maiko to come out of the library. There are too many hard copy books in the room and I was scared that she might get hurt.
I tried to move over to the meeting room to switch on the TV to see the news. Public broadcaster NHK switched its programming to cover the earthquake.
We are on the fifth floor and the building was seriously shaking. All the doors were banging and we couldn’t stand still.
I tried to phone my daughter's day care and my parents, but none of the telephone devices worked.
Maiko was under the reception desk almost in tears. Mr Yokoyama came out of his office and we debated if we should get out of the building.
There was an announcement over the tannoy that the building was quake safe and would not fall apart.
A city of Yokohama official rang us to see if we were all okay and if there was any damage to the office, but they couldn’t tell us whether we should stay in the building or get out.
We decided to evacuate. We went down the emergency exit staircase, but we knew there was a tsumami alert so we tried to climb up to a higher level as we got outdoors. There were about 200 people from the building, hotel and conference centres milling around.
Mr Matsuda joined us from the metro, but then the second quake hit. We watched all the buildings shake sideways badly.
All of us decided to walk home to our families – public transport had stopped in Yokohama. Mr Matsuda ended up walking six and half hours before he got on a metro in Tokyo to get home.
As Maiko is from Saitama [in the Greater Tokyo area] and had no way of getting home on foot, I took her with me the five kilometres to my daughter’s daycare. On the way we saw dark smoke from a fire in the city and decided to walk by the ocean in Yamashita park, but the police came over to tell us they were expecting a 10-metre-high tsunami.
We walked past Barney’s New York Yokohama and all the staff and customers were locked in.
As we were walking Maiko managed to get through on her phone to her twin sister. It started to rain.
We found all 100 children safe at daycare.
We walked across Negishi forest park to my flat, where we saw no serious damage but still could not get through to my parents on the phone.
Maiko and I decided to take my car from the underground parking and drive to Kamakura where my parents live.
By now it was dark, and for the first time there was absolutely no light in the city – no street lights, traffic lights, lights from houses or offices.
The city was dead silent. We saw a dim light coming from a fire station and at the entrance of a hospital. Petrol stands, convenience stores and all the shops were closed.
My parents' seven-storey apartment building was pitch dark and dead silent.
We couldn’t operate the electric garage so we left the car on the ground and had to walk up to the seventh floor from the back door to the building. It was so quiet we thought the whole building had been evacuated.
My father is in a wheelchair, so they had stayed inside and had been completely cut off from the outside world for about eight hours.
We had what was in the house for dinner with three candles lit. Basically vegetarian food: kinpira gobo, green vegetables, daikon nimono with ganmodoki, and some protein in the form of a little botargo. Over the years I’ve swung from one extreme macrobiotic diet to entrecote extravagance, but you know what? This simple dinner was probably one of the best dinners I’ve had in my life, and it really made me think.
Haven't we been playing god for too long, thinking science could beat nature, and being so naive and ignorant as not to have respect and appreciation for what nature could share with us? Shouldn’t we be a little more humble and less greedy in our outlook and aspirations in life?
All I would like to ask for now is to be cuddled by the ones I love on my favourite plateau overlooking the ocean, appreciating the beauty of nature.
I am petrified, not only because thousands of people are still missing and because of the repercussions of this disaster, but also because scientists are still looking into the aspects of earthquake and tsunami science.
Please hug the ones you love tonight when you go to bed.
As of Monday 14th March, FAO staff were back at work in the liaison office in Japan.