Raw Japan

Slices of Japanese business, politics and life

Another Sunday night on the Pacific Ring of Fire

August 10, 2009

JAPANSunday night’s strong but uneventful 6.9 magnitude earthquake reminded all in greater Tokyo that these are indeed volatile times, tectonically speaking.

It was also a reminder of the advantages of Japan’s intense preparation for if – or when — the “Big One” does indeed come. As usual, train lines immediately stopped service while media reports of the quake and its Japanese scale rating of “4″ flashed within moments of the long temblor. Email and twitter-ing would have reached that magnitude when the Richter scale numbers were broadcast overseas.

Japan, which sits on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” and logs 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes of magnitude 6 or greater, is by no means blase about such activity, as major disasters have claimed thousands of lives and resulted in hundreds of billions of dollars in damage over the last 15 years.

There is a bit of a surfers’ mentality about the less destructive rumblings, though, which come with a frequency ripe for comparison, anecdote or even deception. For example, when I try to sleep in the car as my family shops (known as the Tokyo taxi driver position), they often return and shake the car from behind, simulating tectonic rumblings.

I’ve fallen for this one too many times to recount, so after they went into a supermarket on Sunday evening and the rolling began, I laughed. Then I shouted out the window that they could stop, and actually opened the car door peeved as it continued. But no family.

Instead, they were standing in front of the melon display inside, experiencing the same shaking as me while a store speaker blared the specifics of the seismic event, and where a human phalange of staff quickly emerged, ostensibly ready to throw themselves in front of any rolling — and expensive — melons.

Thankfully, the tremors ceased, the store and all Japan remained standing, and the melon ended on a different kind of moving plate, to the satisfaction of all.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Issei Kato

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