Shake, Rattle & Roll  

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Last night I experienced my first proper Japanese earthquake. At about midnight, the bed started shaking and the doors started rattling in their frames. The whole thing lasted for about 30 seconds or so. A few minutes later we got another little wobble that lasted 20 seconds or so.

Ironically, the first earthquake I ever felt was in Kent, so the experience was not entirely new. In terms of magnitude, I’d say last night’s shake was about the same as the Kent earthquake last year – maybe bit more. The difference is that here it is not an unusual event, so I doubt the local paper will be producing an earthquake pull-out supplement like the dear old Kent Messenger did last year.

Tokyo gets about 200 earthquakes a year. Most of them are fairly minor, but we are overdue for the big one. The Great Kanda Earthquake in 1923 levelled Tokyo and killed over 100,000 people. I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about a major earthquake striking. But the city seems well prepared for such an emergency. Every household keeps a special emergency backpack and supplies, and there are clearly designated emergency gathering areas in every neighbourhood. The government also has hundreds of warehouses located around the city packed with emergency provisions.

Nobody here seems particularly bothered about last night, or about the prospect of earthquakes in general. I have yet decide whether this stems from a genuine confidence in their ability to cope with such a disaster or simply an unwillingness to contemplate the prospect.

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