Earthquakes

The sentiment expressed in my last blog post about what a nuisance snow can be is nothing compared to how I feel about earthquakes. Earthquakes are not unusual here in Japan, especially up in the northeast (Tohoku) region where I live, but ever since the huge earthquake and tsunami that caused widespread death and destruction here on March 11, 2011, the place has been rocking on a much larger scale and much more frequently than would previously have been considered normal.

I have lived in Japan for more than 50 years. Until I moved up to Miyagi Prefecture in 2009 (13 years ago), the largest earthquake I had personally experience measured around 5 on the Japan Meteorological Agency’s seismic intensity scale which, it should be noted, is distinct from the widely used “Magnitude” scale. A “5” is a pretty good shake-up, but nothing like the lower 6 to upper 6 intensity quakes I have experienced up here. And just to preempt misunderstanding, it isn’t that big quakes only happen up here in the Tohoku region, it is just that more earthquakes of that intensity are happening since The Big One on March 11, 2011. The JMA tells us that most of these are “aftershocks” of The Big One, and that they could continue for 100 years or so. Oh joy.

The JMA seismic intensity scale is not linear, and a “6” is terrifyingly more powerful than a “5”. To put that in some sort of perspective, the scale only goes up to 7, and when you find yourself in the midst of a lower or upper 6 intensity earthquake you also find that walking is not an option. Crawling is the only way forward, especially at upper 6 intensity. In my area we have had lower and upper 6 intensity events for two consecutive years. A lower 6 quake in February of 2021, and an upper 6 in March of 2022. In both cases my house has come through with only minor damage, structurally, but the insides are invariably a complete mess. The cleanup can take weeks, especially if you have a whole 2-floor house full of stuff. Precautions must be taken. Cabinets that might fall over need to be attached to walls or otherwise restrained, and nothing heavy can be placed where it might fall and cause personal injury in a bedroom, for example. But despite the precautions, loose stuff gets thrown around, because there is always loose stuff. If we include the great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011, that is three times I have had to go through the cleanup process. Cleanup after the upper 6 shaker of March this year is still a work in progress three months later. Almost done.

I just hope I don’t have to do it again next year.

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