The earthquake we experienced on Saturday night in the Shibuya district of Tokyo was the deepest ever recorded. It was 677km down which is almost incomprehensible. Although the epicentre was off the coast at the Ogasawara islands it shook the whole of Japan and aftershocks were felt as far away as India and Nepal. One milder quake was followed by a much longer and stronger episode.
The Shibuya shuffle
It seemed to get little international attention as it didn’t cause a Tsunami (the more shallow quakes do this) and no nuclear power plants were affected. It didn’t get much coverage back in the UK where the British tabloid mentality was consumed with the antics of Sepp Blatter and Fifa and whether Nicola Sturgeon from the SNP would be getting her own talk show in America.
Not Sepp Blatter
However, sitting in our Air BnB which had been described as an ‘amazing cosy room!’ feeling the whole building sway violently from side to side while everything that was fixed starting to move, it felt very significant indeed. Yes, we all know in our heads that our daily concerns and traumas are really not that important, but when you think the very earth that you live on is in danger of exploding around you it makes you stop and think.
Shibuya crossing minutes before the quake struck
The Japanese are used to earthquakes. Their country is right in the middle of four giant tectonic plates and the country has been devastated by natural disasters – volcanoes, earthquakes and Tsunamis many times over the centuries. They have the most advanced earthquake proof buildings and regulations are tight. When pressed for earthquake info, the old lady downstairs shrugged her shoulders and by way of explanation said ‘Japan sometimes shakes.’ Our Air BnB hosts said ‘Yes we sometime have an earth quake but almost just small one so it will be no problem.’ When I sought further reassurance the reply was ‘You should hide under a table to take cover from a falling object. Then you can get out when stop the shaking.’ OK.
A rainy night in Tokyo
This quake was so far down in the earth’s core it is potentially the most deadly type of earthquake of all. Liquefaction occurred when the earth heats up so much that it melts the soil beneath the crust and forces it out through fissures to relieve the build up of pressure. This video link shows roads moving, street furniture shifting and people falling over in the street last Saturday May 30th 2015. I won’t ever forget it anyhow. We are both now signed up to the earthquaketracker.com app for regular alerts and updates. Another fascinating website for the natural disaster addict is called Extinction Protocol. I kid you not.
Was it only a couple of days ago we had arrived in Tokyo and started to feel like we were starring in our own video game?
Cracking the code
We had completed the Suduko/Krypton factor challenge of actually finding our Air BnB in the first place. This had involved a complicated series of instructions, part pictures, part cunning directions which negotiated us through the centre of this Bladerunner city at night. We had to find a stock room down a side alley, then crack a code to find some keys which led to another set of deposit boxes which held the actual apartment keys. After travelling for about 36 hours this was no mean feat I can tell you.
We found the key!
Japan is the country I have visited which most feels like another planet altogether. It is Total Recall (the original film not the lame action remake) right down to the bingy bongy music just everywhere and the cars which all look like Jonny cabs. Even the toilets are space age. They play music, have different styles of squirting water at your nether regions, and have a button to create an extra loud flushing sound for some inexplicable reason. The trip continued in this vein and, as we found ourselves in a Karaoke room in Ginza a few nights later which had the bad lighting and tired decor of a 1970’s working men’s club there, was only one to sing. That top hit all over the world by Taylor Swift ‘Shake It Off’ or as we renamed it ‘Quake It Off.’