Well, I figure if there were ever an appropriate time to send an email, it would be now. Japan just had a pretty huge earthquake, and even though the epicenter was 230 miles away from me, it shook Tokyo for a good minute or so. Apparently some people as far away as Beijing and Shanghai could feel it. I put a video that I took at the bottom of this post. Maiko and I are both fine, as is everyone I know here.
So, first off, Western news sources are having trouble describing where the quake occurred. The best they can think of is “230 miles from Tokyo” or “125 miles off the eastern coast of Japan.” Then they show places that were absolutely destroyed, so I think people are getting the wrong impression about how the quake affected Tokyo. Most of those pictures are from around Sendai, about 200 miles north of Tokyo. The bottom line is that Tokyo felt an earthquake in the high 5s of the Moment magnitude scale, which was certainly strong but only a tiny, tiny fraction of what folks in Sendai felt (like 0.002%). Here’s where I was in relation to the quake:
The epicenter of the quake was around 8.9 MMS magnitude, which means it released around half the seismic energy of the Indian Ocean earthquake in 2004 that killed 230,000 people, and around 700 times more energy (!) than the one that hit Haiti last year and left 300,000 dead. Japan’s earthquake infrastructure makes a huge difference, but the death toll is still dreadful.
Theree are two main observations: 1) that greater magnitudes don’t necessarily mean higher death tolls, and 2) that developed countries are infinitely more capable of handling earthquakes and tsunamis than developing countries.
I managed to record a video of the incident before shutting my camera off after I realized my cupboard was open and some glass items might fall out. I had just gotten out of the shower when the earthquake hit, and I started thinking it would be a good idea to take a video just so folks back home would get an idea of what a “normal” earthquake is like. They usually only last 15 seconds or so, so I thought I wouldn’t get a good video, so you can see how the quake doesn’t hit all at once but rather builds to a climax. The sounds in the video are the walls shaking, the sliding window creaking, and some utensils falling off tables or clattering around in the sink:
Everyone I know is accounted for and doing fine, and I think we’ll see that, despite the seismic intensity and the structural damage done in the northeast, it’s amazing how well Japan has withstood the quake. We’re still feeling aftershocks and still under tsunami alert, but aside from that the recovery will be brief aside from the Sendai area.
I hope everyone’s doing great back in the States!