Saturday, December 8, 2012

Earthquake last night

Maybe around 8, the house began to shiver. Ah well, a quake. It seemed a bit stronger than usual, and it went on for longer. The house danced for a good 30 seconds.

But in Tokyo, we are used to quakes. They happen daily but no one pays any attention to most of them, which are feeble. And anyway, what are you going to do? I went back to eating my lonely bowl of chili.

After a while, I checked my email. My wife, at choral practice, had sent me a message: "Call me!" So I called her and she picked up her cellphone. I could hear she was right in the middle of some great, swelling choral run. An awkward time to get a phone call. All she said was "Are you OK?" "Sure," I said. And she hung up and went back to singing.

I wondered what all that was about.

More email messages. From sister-in-law in Washington, from daughter in San Francisco, from an old sidekick in Connecticut: "Are you OK?" I answered them back "Sure, sure." Must be the quake they're worried about. The news gets around quickly these days and of course TV has a tendency to dramatize. I went to bed early.

The next morning I searched "earthquake japan" and got dozens of stories. I checked out BBC and was treated to views of an office on the 19th floor of a building in maybe Shinjuku where the light fixtures in the ceiling were joggling and people were trying to decide whether they should get under their desk or not. We looked out the window and saw that the building was gently swaying and that the other tall buildings in the area were swaying too. A sedate dance.

The quake was judged to have been of a 7.3 magnitude, not insignificant, but there seemed to have been no serious damage beyond some books and files being nudged out of bookcases. Well, it certainly had a way of bringing people together.

I learn later that in fact this quake at 7.3 was far less significant than the quake last year that brought on the tsunami that devastated towns on the coast just 100 kilometers north of Tokyo. That quake measured 9 on the Richter scale, over 1,000 times stronger. I also learn that when NHK's huge building in Shibuya began to shake, the NHK announcer advised everyone to flee for their lives.

 - Alphonse Apricot 

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