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My First Earthquake!


Among all the new experiences that I live since I’ve arrived in Japan, there is one that I’d rather have avoided and that I rather avoid in the future too, but I’m afraid that there is no escape from it in Japan. I’m talking about earthquakes.

I’ve never had experienced an earthquake before. Well, it’s not 100% true, there has been a couple where I grew up in the French South west but as they’re never above magnitude 2, I never felt them. I also never felt a single earthquake during my previous trips to Japan.

So the little event that happened on November 21st, 2011 was a first for me.

I’m lucky to be in an area that is not prone to earthquakes. 康代 told me that she never really felt many growing up here. On March 11, the big Tōhoku earthquake was not felt at all on Shikoku. However, “not prone to earthquakes” doesn’t mean much in Japan, after all Kōbe is not in a region that is prone to earthquake either.

So, we were on November 21st, 2011, it was 7.20pm, we just had finished eating dinner. The family was watching TV, and I was preparing myself for my first day of work in Japan the following day.

Suddenly, an insert appeared on the TV screen and informed us of a Magnitude 5 earthquake in the northern part of Hiroshima Prefecture.

I didn’t think much about it, Magnitude 5 is indeed worth mentioning, but in Japan, where everything is built to sustain much stronger earthquakes, it’s not really a big deal.

However, I realized that everybody became silent in the room. I thought that they were just waiting for more news and that since March 11, people are more sensitive to that kind of news.

A few seconds later, I understood that my Japanese family was indeed waiting, but they didn’t wait for more news. They waited for the quake to reach us! It did about 30 seconds later.


Tremblement de terre

 (source: Japan Meteorological Agency)

It started with some sort of faraway drum roll coming closer fats.

Then the house started to vibrate as if a huge train passed in the backyard or something similar.

Furniture, dishes and every object in the house shook making some noise

Then nothing.

It lasted two, maybe three seconds, no more.

Nothing fell, nothing broke and the only reaction from my in-laws was “well, that was a short one.”

I feel that had I not been present at that moment, they would just have went on with their evening without a second thought.

For me, it was a pretty uncanny moment. A very strange feeling indeed. I was not exactly scared, but I had this strange sensation that something “unnatural” had happened. I knew what had happened and I knew it was nothing, but from that moment earthquakes have now become a real thing to me, not just something I hear about, like they always had been before that.

Now, let’s hope the next one is as far away as possible in the future and stays as small as that one was.

10 thoughts on “My First Earthquake!”

    1. I suppose too… 😉

      Actually, yeah, I’m glad that it was not a strong one, “baby steps” is better for those sorts of things.

    1. Oh I forgot to answer you sorry.
      Yes, I guess the first earthquake is part of the initiation ritual for newcomers to Japan.

      (job is going great, but will stay off limits here)

  1. It’s good that you got that first experience over with. Now the next time won’t be a surprise. Just remember to hold up anything that might fall like a lamp or T.V.

    1. It’s good indeed.
      Now, that being said, I still don’t know how I’ll react and what to really expect when a big one comes knocking at my door.

  2. I’m pleased I’ve found your blog about Japan at last!
    I witnessed an earthquake in the UK, in the north-east, many years ago, and the thing I most remember about that is the noise. It sounded like something huge and heavy had been dropped.
    I hope you don’t experience too many in your new home.

    1. There’s no link from my France blog? Whoops, must have forgotten.

      I shouldn’t experience too many here, they’re a rare thing in this part of Japan. Although since that first earthquake, I experienced a second one. Well “experience” is a strong word, it was so weak that I was not sure why the vacuum cleaner – which was next to me at that moment – shook a little. It’s my wife who was in another room who told me it was indeed an earthquake.

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