Friday, March 11, 2011

Japan and the Earthquake

Having lived in Japan for three years, I'm well familiar with the little earthquakes that are a constant factor of life there; by the end of my stay, I would barely notice them - slight tremors that seemed most apparent in the early morning, shaking me out of my sleep to briefly, attentively wait and see if anything developed. Nothing ever did, and I would easily and quickly fall back to sleep when they finished; but all the same, one lives in constant awareness over there, given all the little quakes, that a big one might hit at any time. The worst I saw, between 1999 and 2002, was a quake that shook the school I was working at enough that a few things - books stacked on shelves, and such - wobbled and fell over. Lights rattled, and you could feel the tremors through the desks, the floors: it was like the school was being given a gentle but firm shaking. It lasted less than a minute, but in that time, everything paused and people paid careful attention... then shrugged, when it subsided, and went back to work, perhaps grinning at a coworker for a moment...

The quake that hit them earlier today/ yesterday, by their count was obviously something much different, and I've sent a concerned email to one friend in Saitama, the bedroom community of Tokyo where I lived, to see what things are like there (and find out how she is). Japan Today says the magnitude of the quake was about 5 in Tokyo, 6 in Saitama and Gunma; both are probably inland enough not to have been affected by the tsunami. The real devastation is further north and further east. But it's hard to know how badly Saitama was hit just from a number... In any event, I'm sure help will be needed, not only for rebuilding in Japan, but for the thousands of Japanese students staying in Vancouver who are no doubt quite freaked out by hearing such news when they're so far from home. I'll keep y'all posted if there are any suggestions as to what concerned people might do.

4 comments:

M said...

You're the first person I thought of when I heard about the quake.

Hope the areas you're familiar with haven't been hit too hard.

My partner is from Christchurch. It's numbing watching places where he grew up all reduced to landfill.

Min

ammacinn said...

Hey, Min! Long time... no, I'm okay, safely in Maple Ridge, an hour outside of Vancouver, where I've been looking out for my Mom (she's had a stroke and needs a bit of help). She's very glad I'm not in Japan anymore. Apparently Saitama isn't so bad - it was frightening for people, and there was at least one death there, but the real destruction is further north. Still - there are probably all sorts of students from that region in Vancouver right now - they must be terrified...

M said...

Third attempt! Blogger hates my google account sign in, by the looks of things ...

There are a large number of Japanese families here waiting for bodies to be identified - an English language school collapsed in the Christchurch quake. I've heard many of them are from northern Japan. I can't begin to imagine how it is for them.

Maybe some were spared by being here.

ammacinn said...

Wow - that's horrible, death upon death. All of this is well beyond easy comprehension - nothing at all comparable has happened to me, and to try to imagine 10,000 dead - as the current figures have it - is staggering. I donated $100 via the Red Cross, and spent half an hour or so going through old email addresses from students and coworkers I knew in Japan, trying to say hello; all have long since changed, however... It's tempting to let life go on, since I can't afford to donate more and can't exactly leave my ailing Mom to fly to Japan to "help" - but it doesn't really feel like enough. I wonder what things are like at the school I worked at? (Lot of Japanese students there...).