Shake, rattle and roll

Sunday evening found me sprawled on my bed reading when suddenly my mattress started to shake. Well, I had to hand it to my neighbours. It was only 8 in the evening and they must have been at it like rabbits to make the bed vibrate ... and the desk ... and the TV stand and ... hmm, unless they were mounting rhinos I concluded there had to be an alternative explanation.

Welcome to my new word of the week じしん (jishin), earthquake!

The following day I discussed geological forces with my friends at work. They told me that there were earthquake safe spots where people were encouraged to gather. Unlike the hurricane shelters I had seen in Florida which tended to be sturdy school buildings, earthquake safe zones are areas of open space where nothing can fall on you. The observatory where I work is one such spot due to its specious campus.

"But how do you know when to go there?" I asked.

"Well," I was told. "You wait for the first quake to pass. Ideally get under a desk or table in case something falls on you. Then if a larger shake is likely to follow, you move to a safe zone."

"... how do I know if a larger quake is coming?" I enquired, bewildered.

There was a short conversation in Japanese and then my friend went to fetch her Japanese -> English electronic dictionary. She bashed in the phrase and I looked over her shoulder for the translation.

Sixth sense.

Gee, thanks. Early this morning I got to put my new theories into practice when a larger quake shook me awake at around 6 am. I waited, listening to my apartment complex. As far as I could tell, no one was moving. This was only moderately reassuring since the Japanese are so well organised I could quite easily see everyone sneaking out the complex without making a sound. However, it was early, I'd been up late and well ... fuck earthquakes. I went back to sleep.

I was reassured later that at times when people are supposed to move to safe zones, electronic speakers on the street announce warnings to flush people out of their homes.

At lunch today I asked whether it was likely that there would be more quakes coming.

"Well, we've had two so...."

.... so? That's probably it? They'll be another fifty? I still have no idea.

Despite being only mildly inconvenienced by the earthquakes (and actually finding the concept downright exciting), the quake this morning proved to have been relatively large. Although few people were injured, the major Tomei national expressway out of Tokyo has been damaged, right before the major national holidays.

Japan, mother nature does not think you've been good boys and girls this year.