January 17, 1995, 5:44 A.M., two minutes before the earthquake, my wife and I were fortunately away from our bedroom. My grandmother's heavy chest of drawers and other furniture tumbled down one on top of the other. (Taken with a Minolta 707Si in the afternoon of the 17th. The camera still worked.)
The first floor leaned southward. After about 10 days, we had straightened things up a bit (lower photo). The leaning of the pillar is quite obvious here. (We were so relieved that my parents, who lived on the second floor, were unharmed.)
We had aluminum sashes installed on the house when we returned from Europe in the beginning of 1993. (The Housing Corporation soundproofed the house for us.) You can't see much damage from the outside, but if you look from the north side (lower photo), you can tell that the house is leaning considerably. (It was later judged to be "totally destroyed.")
Thirty years ago, our house stood on what is now National Route 2. When the road was widened to 50 meters, our house was moved. Later, the Hanshin Expressway was constructed. The third floor of the Ohnishi Shokai Building and the bridge column in front of our house show the awesome strength of a tremor registering 7 on the seismic scale.
[On the way to my brother's house in Suma (on the day of the earthquake)]
My brother works in Tokyo, but he has a house in Suma. We used this empty house on January 16th. In the afternoon of January 17th, I began to worry about my brother's house, so I went by bicycle from Higashishiriike to the house in Suma, riding along National Route 2. There were many fires burning in the Sugahara district on the east side of my house, and others on the west side as well.
This is a fire almost right next to the fire department in Ohashi 2-chome. Neither the fire fighters nor the people walking by could do anything about it. On the 17th, people could do no more than to take care of their own problems.
As the photo on the preceding page shows, my brother's house in Suma was crushed flat. According to the Inuoues, who live next door, the house actually remained standing for a while after the earthquake. Many personal items, such as photo albums, books, notebooks, and a personal computer were trapped under the debris. Even so, the area around Tsukimiyama looked just as it did in the old days.
On the day after the earthquake, I headed out to buy groceries in the area around our house. None of the nearby shops were open, so I rode my bicycle about 30 minutes to a market in Minatogawa, where I bought oranges, apples and cookies. (The photo on the left is the factory of my friend Shunji. The first floor collapsed, leaving the second floor sitting on the ground.
This is the Nagata-ku area on January 18th. I happened to have some ISO 800 film, because my wife had been planning to go to France to attend the graduation ceremony of our son. I felt bad taking this photo of the Taishousuji Shopping Arcade in such a pitiful condition, but I wanted to record it for the future.
The Swiss Rescue Team arrived at the Terashi Clinic next to our house. I thanked them and shook hands. (They saved many people's lives by pulling them from under collapsed buildings.) National Route 2, which was declared an emergency road, was still full of police cars and ambulances on January 20th, making it look almost like a scene out of a TV show or movie.
In February, the work to dismantle houses and buildings and remove the debris began. The photo shows the collapsed house of an aquaintance. The second floor crashed into the house next door, resulting in death for an elderly person living there. The dismantling work was a terribly sad process.
[My house after we took refuge elsewhere](3 photos)
At this time, we were taking refuge in the third floor of the Post Office. Our house was hidden from view by National Route 2. The Awaji-made roof tiles are still plenty strong. As the sun beams down on this day of rest, it doesn't seem like anything unusual has happened outside. "Maybe nothing really happened after all..."