A whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on  

Thursday, 13 August 2009


Mrs Beerhound and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary last week, and in celebration we decided to book a table at the very posh Tokyo Breeze restaurant on the 36th floor of the Maranouchi building. The view from our table was – as you can see – quite stunning.

However it became considerably more interesting when Tokyo was struck by the biggest earthquake we’ve had for months. Sitting atop a swaying skyscraper, 36 floors above a distinctly unforgiving-looking pavement added a certain dynamic to the evening.

Subsequently, we’ve been hit several more times by earthquakes this week. We were woken up at 5am on Tuesday by a magnitude 4 quake, followed a few hours later by a small magnitude 1 tremor. And again this morning, we had a magnitude 2/3 shake. It is very, very unusual to have so many quakes in such a short space of time.

Everyone is a little bit concerned that we might be witnessing the precursors of the long-awaited Tokai quake. This is the big one, that the experts say is long overdue. The last great earthquake to hit Tokyo was in 1923, and this one killed 100,000 people. The experts say the next one will be as big, if not bigger. Of course, building design has improved considerably since those days (as our experienced in the Maranouchi building illustrated). However there will still be destruction and loss of life on a colossal scale. We are told that the government is ready for it and has made sufficient plans for our welfare. Certainly there are government warehouses packed with supplies all over Tokyo – often in secret locations. But everyone remembers the experience of the Kobe earthquake in ‘95 that showed up serious complacencies and flaws in the government’s emergency planning. We can only hope that those lessons were adequately learned, for the Tokai will be bigger and more destructive than anything Japan has faced before.

I would be lying if I said I wasn’t concerned about what will happen – and the Tokai is a certainty; there’s a 40% probability before next year and a 90% probability within 50 years. But life is itself uncertain. I can only hope that fate will be kind to us.

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