Brian and family now in Taiwan
by STACEY HEANEY
Lisburn man Brian Hamilton with his wife Lisa and daughter Beatrix.
One-year-old Beatrix, who has left Japan with her family following the devastating earthquake last week.
A LISBURN man living in Japan has left the country with his wife and baby
daughter as fears grow over the Fukushima nuclear power plant where there
have been several explosions following last Friday's devastating earthquake
and tsunami. Brian Hamilton, who has been living in Tokyo since last
September, was at work when the earthquake, the fourth most powerful ever
It was several hours before he was able to get home and make sure his wife Lisa and one-year-old daughter Beatrix were unharmed. The family flew to Lisa's home country of Taiwan on Tuesday as the British government advised anyone living in Tokyo or further north to consider leaving the country amid concerns over radiation leaks from the damaged nuclear plant.
"Earthquakes I can handle" said Brian, "but the nuclear threat is too dangerous and when friends started leaving I decided we should go too.
"By Monday I was very worried and on Tuesday we left. I have 25 people in my office who work for me and only a couple are foreign, so I couldn't abandon ship, I had to have a plan in place for my Japanese workers first. I decided to close the office indefinitely and make sure they are safe."
Without trains, it cost Brian £200 for a taxi journey to go from his office to his home to pack his family's belongings, before another taxi journey to the airport for the family to leave.
He described the moment the devastating earthquake struck last Friday and his agonising wait to make sure his wife and baby daughter were safe. What had started out as a normal day at work for the 42-yearold Lisburn man turned into a nightmare when the earth started shaking at 2.45pm. "I have lived in Taiwan, California and Japan, areas all prone to earthquakes but I have experienced nothing close to this," the former Wallace HS pupil said. "I was at my computer when it started and I posted a comment on Facebook saying, More Quakes', but it just kept going and going and getting stronger and stronger.
"Everyone went to the windows and then started back toward the doors, really panicked. There were people who have lived there for 50 years saying it was the worst they have ever known.
"It seemed to last a very long time, around five minutes, and the aftershocks rolled on for an hour or so of constant shaking. The office is made to survive earthquakes, so it just swayed and the elevators turned off.
"There was no way to get in touch with my wife. I was calling and there was no response. The trains were all out and there was no way to get home. I was looking for a taxi but it was impossible to get one.
"My colleagues suggested walking home, but I'm lucky, I live in a nice place in central Tokyo so it only took me an hour and half, some of my colleagues had to walk six hours to get home.
"The electricity was off and as I was walking you could see the trains had just stopped on the lines and people were trapped in them. Eventually they brought ladders up to get people out, but if you see photos of trains in Japan people are packed into them like sardines, so it can't have been a pleasant experience."
There was relief when he got home and found Lisa had been able to get online and was talking to her parents in Taiwan on Skype.
"Beatrix had slept through half of the earthquake, my wife went to grab her and she was still sleeping. Lisa was carrying Beatrix and trying to hold the flatscreen television to stop it falling on them at the same time."
The local man could then only watch on in horror as he saw the deadly tsunami which has wiped out entire towns, unfold over the internet. Up to 10,000 people are feared dead and over half a million are left without homes.
Brian, who is President of Gracenote Japan, a subsidiary company of Sony, said some of his 25 employees have family missing in north-east Japan since the tragedy and do not know whether their loved ones are alive or dead.
"I didn't know about the tsunami warnings at the time, but I saw it when I turned on the television and then I received e-mails from US colleagues.
Brian said it was "testament to the architecture" in Tokyo that the city had remained basically unscathed from the earthquake.
"It's amazing," he said. "My boss was on the 32nd floor of a hotel across from our office and the building just swayed, there was very little damage. There was a small crack in our apartment from the floor to ceiling, and I saw one or two tiles off in places, but it is amazing there wasn't serious damage.
"I am happy to be out," he said. "I got a nice email from my colleagues thanking me for closing the office."
Brian said that whilst he was in Japan he kept up to date with the latest news via Twitter as the Japanese press is "conservative" in what they report.
The Lisburn man added he would be keen to return to Japan when things settle down. "I'm not giving up my job. I like Japan, I've got a good job there and the local Japanese people are wonderful."
Brian praised the "spirit" of the Japanese people following their ordeal saying: "I'm still worrying and praying for everyone there. The worst may be to come and I'm very very nervous about what is to come. But the spirit of the Japanese people is amazing. They are so polite, there is no panic, and as a non Japanese speaker they made me comfortable before themselves.
"I'm looking forward to going back when they say things are safe," he concluded.
Brian's mother, Jennifer Hamilton, who still lives in Lisburn said the entire family circle had been left worried as they waited for news from Brian following the earthquake. Jennifer stated: "We are so relieved that Brian, Lisa and baby Beatrix have gotten out safely to Taiwan, where Lisa has family" she said.