Japan's earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis have transformed Tokyo, one of the world's most technologically sophisticated cities, into a virtual "war zone," with infrastructure largely intact but residents still unable to cope without some of the modern amenities on which they've come to rely. In a series of interviews with AOL News, Americans living in the Japanese capital described an atmosphere of fear and exhaustion, and panic about what comes next.
"This must be what a war zone is like," Brooke McShane, a 29-year-old market researcher originally from Memphis, Tenn., told AOL News over a Skype call from her Tokyo home. "Japan is a country where you can go to the grocery store and buy milk whenever you want. But right now there's no food in the grocery stores, there's no milk, there's no bread, there's no eggs. When you're in that kind of situation, people are tired and freaked out."
Quake damage in Tokyo has been limited, paling in comparison to widespread devastation farther north, where the 9.0-magnitude quake and resulting tsunami are estimated to have killed at least 10,000 people. But in Tokyo, it's the small changes -- electricity outages and disruptions to public transit -- that can turn minor inconveniences into potentially dangerous situations.
After Friday's quake, McShane, who has , was stranded at work without her long-acting insulin treatment. She had an emergency short-acting dose, but couldn't spend the night at work -- as many of her co-workers did -- without her .
"Some people in the office spent the night at work, but I walked to my in-laws house about an hour and a half away," she said. "Then I borrowed their bicycle, and then rode that bicycle about an hour to my house."
McShane said the mood on Tokyo's streets that night was surreal.
"There were so many people on the streets asking for directions. The weirdest thing about it was nobody knew how to get home. People in my office were like, 'If I walk home, I don't even know the direction.' If you take the train, you think in terms of the train map and not the geography of the streets," she said. "Especially at night, it was this hoard of people tired, having worked late and gone through this, trying to find their way home in the dark."
Another American living in Tokyo, Jeff Allan, said one of the differences with the layout of cities in Japan, compared with America, is how densely packed people live. They rely more on public transit, and if one wall falls down, chances are that it affects at least two homes, he said.
"One thing I've noticed since I've been in Japan is that their towns, even what they consider to be smaller towns, for us in America are much more densely populated," Allan, who served in the U.S. Marine Corps before becoming a technology journalist in Asia, told AOL News by phone. "So that 10,000 number of fatalities, considering how closely they live together here, it sadly makes sense."
Allan has lived in Japan for just one year, but has spent the past 12 years in various countries across Asia. He was at his apartment in Tokyo when Friday's 9.0-magnitude quake struck.
"It was very strong, the strongest I've felt in my life," the 37-year-old native said. "The biggest I've been through before this was a 7.0 in , and that was nothing compared to this. I was a Marine so I don't get startled easily, but this was enough for me to throw on my shoes and run out of here.
"Anything that wasn't bolted down was coming down. For me it was dishes in my kitchen and stuff like that," Allan said.
The Rev. Russell Becker, who is a priest originally from Buffalo, N.Y., described that same feeling when he ran out of his Tokyo church, into the street, as the city shook beneath him.
Since then, the aftershocks have continued to rattle homes, and nerves.
"I felt at least four strong ones, one of them measuring I think above 6.0," Allan said. "It kind of frays at your nerves after a while, because you're sitting there wondering, 'Is this going to be something bigger than the initial quake?'"
He said the mood in Tokyo is eerie and tense. "On the surface, everyone looks to be pretty calm -- they're remarkably cool," Allan said. "But talking to my Japanese friends, I think everyone is scared."