Ex-pat Michael Grist, aged 30, from Egerton, lives and works in Japan as a writer and teacher.

I was teaching in an office in a residential area of west Tokyo when the first earthquake hit.

It started steadily and both the student and I sat there to ride it out.

When it continued and got stronger, the student jumped up and pushed the sliding door open — a precaution to avoid getting stuck in a room with a door jammed shut by the earthquake.

We were in a conference room, and behind the student was a shelving unit stacked with video games and manga figures.

As the shaking grew stronger, something fell off.

We both got up to hold all the figures, games, and certificates in place.

As it got stronger still we looked at each other and realised this was no regular earthquake.

A brief moment passed as I tried to calculate in my head the correct proportional response.

I knew that if I let go of the games they'd all fall to the ground, some bits would smash, and I'd look a bit silly if the quake stopped abruptly.

As the shaking continued we passed that point where feeling silly would matter, and I let go of the stuff.

It all jumped immediately off the shelves behind us as we dashed for the door.

We hurried down the steps and out into the street, where we were joined by the rest of the staff.

There we stood, putting on shoes we'd hastily grabbed from the entrance way, and watched the two-storey building shake, watched the power-lines rattling and jostling back and forth, and exchanged confused looks with a few people coming out of their nearby homes.

I heard it lasted for six minutes.

Towards the end, the sensation of shaking changed, and became more of a nauseating rolling, as though we were standing in a small boat undulating on light waves.

At first, I thought my legs were just trembling from shock, but of course it wasn’t just me.

I took out my cell phone and tried to call my girlfriend to check she was okay, but nothing.

My phone showed I had reception bars, but the call couldn't go through.

I tried to sent a text, but again no luck.

Others around me were finding the same result. The whole service was down due to so many people calling loved ones at once.

I opened email through my phone, and that worked, so I was able to send a message that way.

I didn't hear back from her for more than an hour.

Her phone was mostly dead too, and she was busy getting herded out of her corporate office closer to the centre of Tokyo.

Her co-workers congregated in a local park, where they watched nearby tall buildings sway.

After the immediate aftershocks, we went back inside the office and watched the news coming in on television for a while.

The first tsunami warnings came in, followed by early footage of rising tides, and a few casualties were reported.

My Japanese is not perfect, so I couldn't understand everything clearly, but I didn't expect the devastation that came from the coming tsunamis.

To find out more about Michael's work go to www.michaeljohngrist.com