Hokkaido earthquake leaves Hong Kong visitors with positive memories of Japanese kindness and courtesy

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 September, 2018, 10:49pm

Your report “Quake puts focus on lack of aid for visitors” (September 12) shed light on the difficulties some travellers to Hokkaido faced after an earthquake struck on September 6. Our group of 10 Hongkongers, however, had some positive experiences.

We were at a hotel in Noboribetsu when we felt our beds shaking severely for about 30 seconds, followed by a loud bang, after which the emergency lights were turned on. A housekeeper banging on the doors of each room informed us that there had been an earthquake. A broadcast in English asked us to proceed to the main lobby, and breakfast was served at 6am. Since there was no power, we had to take our luggage down four floors.

At this stage, we only knew the earthquake had measured 6.7 on the Richter scale, but not about casualties and damage, so we set off for the Lake Toya area, a famous hot spring resort. Two hours later, an email from our online booking agent told us the hotel we had booked in Furano, in central Hokkaido, was closed due to the earthquake.

We had no luck finding an alternative hotel and could only continue to Lake Toya. We found most shops closed due to lack of power and water, but one ramen shop was still open. The elderly owners could only promise us five bowls of ramen, but then they dug out their last stocks and made us 10 bowls. Considering they only had gas and no power, their dedication to serving their customers in adversity was admirable.

Watch: Magnitude 6.7 earthquake hits northern Japan’s Hokkaido

After our meal, we started to look for essentials like preserved food, bottled water and lodging. Each person was only allowed to buy two bottles of water but there was no chaos at the convenience stores. A shop owner advised us to try a camp site nearby and a helpful Japanese man led us there in his car. It had closed but the man spent half an hour calling around to try to find us rooms for the night.

Life on the edge: British reporter on Japan’s stoicism in the face of natural disaster

Although the hotel he suggested couldn’t take us in, a manager offered to lead us to an emergency shelter. When we were refused accommodation at one, he took us to another where we were given food, blankets and pillows and even a router for Wi-fi and a power bank.

Luckily, the rest of our journey was plain sailing. While no one would wish for such an experience, it was still worth it. It enhanced our spirit of cooperation in a crisis, and most importantly, our friendship. Finally, as foreigners, we appreciated the calmness, orderly conduct, helpful attitude and devotion to their duty of the Japanese people in times of adversity.

Alec Kwong, Tin Hau