David Chart's Japan Diary

September 7th 2004

Today, our lesson about natural disasters was interrupted by a natural disaster.

I am overdramatising slightly. The typhoon that forced the cancellation of lessons probably won't be a natural disaster by the time it gets here, although it has killed several people on its way, and although the school is worried about the possibility of a major earthquake, that hasn't happened yet, and probably won't.

Still, we really were half way through a two-period lesson on natural disasters when Hayashi-sensei came round to announce that school was being closed because of the typhoon, which certainly gets points for appropriateness. At the moment it's just rather windy, but I imagine it will get more spectacular as the afternoon wears on.

As for earthquakes, I see that Sunday's two made the British news, so you might well already be aware of them. The first happened at around 7pm. It started off with a rumbling like a truck going past, and then kept going. As it kept going, it got stronger, so that the windows were rattling and I could actually feel the ground shaking. At this point, while I wasn't scared, I had that taste you get in the back of your mouth when the adrenaline kicks in. The earthquake lasted for quite a while; I would guess less than a minute, given how slowly time seems to pass under those conditions, but 30 seconds wouldn't surprise me. Had it gone on fifteen seconds longer than it did, I would have been hiding under the desk, because I had just gone to turn the electricity off under my dinner when it stopped. Hiding was the next stage of the plan.

The next one happened around midnight, so it woke me up. It was longer, and slightly stronger, but not quite long enough to actually get me out of bed.

These earthquakes were strong enough to scare the Japanese people as well. Not that they did much damage themselves, but they went on quite a while, and they got stronger. You see, this region of Japan is due a major earthquake. Thus, with two earthquakes within hours of each other, and two much smaller ones since (one yesterday morning and one this morning, both of which I didn't even notice), there's some concern that they're foreshocks. Personally, I'm not worrying, on the grounds that there's nothing I can do. I don't suppose that there will actually be a major earthquake, though. The chances are really rather low.

There's also an election happening in Okazaki, and despite the earthquakes and typhoon the candidates are still driving around in their speaker vans, waving their white-gloved hands out of the windows and announcing "This is Mr Suzuki. Vote for Mr Suzuki. He will fix the pensions problem", or something along those lines. Or, memorably on Sunday evening, "I'm terribly sorry, car. Please overtake us". I doubt that was a central plank of his manifesto.

Well, all I can say is that I'm glad I didn't promise excitement for this week. Who knows what would have happened then?