Japan – where the Earth definitely just moved, it’s nothing to do with your prowess – and might do so for 37 million stoic people soon

Photo by: P K

Photo by: P K

You know the feeling of someone gently shaking you, to make you wake up?
Being in a minor earthquake is very similar. Except for the fact that someone decided to gently shake your whole room, the house you’re in and the surrounding hundreds of square kilometres.
Being in Japan means that there are a few extra things that are certain, apart from death and taxes. These include earthquakes and typhoons. And that something will make you guffaw and / or go WTF??? more or less every day.
No matter whether we’re dealing with the general weirdness (no, Japanese people don’t think that opera karaoke is strange – why do you think that?) or nature baring its teeth, it doesn’t seem to fluster or bother the locals.
On a side note, I had to try to explain the many different uses of the word ‘bothered’ to a group of high-level students the other day. After going through five-six different uses in different scenarios, they had the look of ‘so you basically just chuck it at anything, all the time?’ Of course, this is true. Interestingly, Japanese seem to have a similar word, which sounds a hell of a lot like ‘so’ or ‘soo-soo’, depending on the situation.
Back to earthquakes. It’s a situation where you can definitely see how the Hagakure, the ancient text on the way of the samurai, is alive and well in the general reaction of people here:
“There is something to be learned from a rainstorm. When meeting with a sudden shower, you try not to get wet and run quickly along the road. But doing such things as passing under the eaves of houses, you still get wet. When you are resolved from the beginning, you will not be perplexed, though you still get the same soaking.”
That said, and the general level of stoicism exhibited by the Japanese in general, I’m pretty sure that any comments like ‘so, did the Earth just move for you too?’ might be one of the few things that can lead to a look of exasperation here….
There are very good reasons for the stoic approach to extreme weather, including the logic that can be deduced from this little snippet from an article about new calculations on the frequency and energy levels of earthquakes:
“According to the calculation, there is about a 17 percent possibility that a magnitude of 7 temble will hit an area centring on Tokyo and Chiba in the next five years.”
There are 37 million people in this area.
To put that into perspective, it means that you know that someone is going to gently rock you, your house, and the surrounding area awake at least a couple times a month. There is, however, also the risk that this someone will get bored of this at some point during the coming five years and wake you with a baseball bat – with what will in no sense of the word be a love tap.
I guess there are two ways to deal with this:
Either you lay awake every night, sleeplessly worrying what will happen – or you, like the Japanese seem to have done, try to learn the lesson from a rainstorm.

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