A commercial pilot who flies a Boeing 777 jetliner was about to land at Tokyo's Narita Airport last Friday when he was told about the earthquake and warned that Narita was closed.
His was one of about two dozen planes that were less than an hour away from Narita when the quake occurred.
"(I was) shocked at first," Leja admitted.
He had to burn fuel and find some place to land. He finally took the big jetliner to Sapporo, 400 miles to the north.
He told NBC LA he remained cool during the entire time -- likely because he had 28 years of military experience flying F-4 Phantom jets and teaching air combat.
But he admitted the photos he took once he landed in Sapporo were disturbing.
On Monday, he'll resume his weekly, non-stop LAX to Japan flight.