Massachusetts metalcore band All That Remains had barely arrived in Tokyo last Friday for a soundcheck for their show that night when a massive 9.0-magnitude earthquake shook Japan and they found themselves caught in the midst of one of the worst disasters to ever befall the island nation.
While Tokyo was mostly spared the devastation that nearly wiped out a number of northern cities closer to the epicenter following the deadly combination of the largest quake to hit Japan combined with a massive tsunami, ATR singer Phil Labonte and his crew definitely felt the ground shake. They ran down five flights to the street to see what was going on as the light fixtures and doors shook back and forth violently in the building. As they hit the street, they could see skyscrapers swaying from the initial trembler and several strong aftershocks.
In an exclusive video diary recorded for MTV News on his iPhone, Labonte described the aftermath of the quake and the challenges the band faced in trying to catch a flight out of the shattered nation Saturday.
The clip opens with images of confused and scared-looking Japanese citizens standing in the street as aftershocks continued to rattle the city. "Our area around [the venue] wasn't really affected in the way [the northern city of] Sendai was. There was no tsunami, there was no major damage to any buildings," he said, noting that you could sense "something has gone on" when you walked around on the streets outside his hotel.
After a large aftershock in the middle of the night on Friday that set off alarms in the hotel, Labonte said he packed up his bags as a precaution in case he had to run outside in an emergency. "That's really all that I've been doing is watching the news," he said, before walking across the street to tour a neighborhood convenience store.
Confirming reports, Labonte filmed images of store shelves stripped bare of food and water, with row upon row of essentials snatched up by worried citizens. "As you can see, a lot of food is not here," he said. "You imagine all these shelves would be full in one of the most modern cities in the world. ... Most of the water's been picked away clean ... and it happened pretty fast too."
While awaiting their flight to San Francisco at the Narita International Airport on Saturday morning, Labonte said things were initially calm. With the exception of a few bedrolls laid out on the floor by people who seemed stuck at the airport, he said things looked pretty business-as-usual despite the emerging picture of the massive damage done to northern cities such as Sendai and the then-burgeoning threat posed by failing nuclear-reactor cooling systems.
"There's some places where it looks like people have been camping out, trying to get out. I guess there's been a lot of delayed flights," he said. With nearly eight hours to go before their flight left, Labonte checked back in a short time later to report a strong aftershock, which he said caused the large floor-to-ceiling windows in the departure terminal to flex in and out. "It's still a pretty active situation. It's changing pretty much by the minute," he said.
Finally, the band made it onto the flight, and Labonte reported that the band and crew were all OK. "I should take a second to send our deepest sympathy to all the people that have had loved ones lost. ... It's really awful and we're very fortunate to not only have gotten out of Japan with no injuries and survived with not a scratch on anyone, but to be able to actually document this."
A number of artists, from Katy Perry and Lady Gaga to the Jonas Brothers, Blink-182's Mark Hoppus and Diddy have urged fans to donate to the Red Cross and offered their condolences to the victims of the natural disaster.