Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan and the Big One

Earthquake-prone Japan has been hit with one of the most powerful tremors ever in the country. The news sent shock waves of fear to different parts of the world.
I had been told a few years back by my lone Japanese student whom I taught English conversation for around seven years, that they knew the Big One will come someday. And it came. Yesterday. 11 March.
For privacy, I'll call him Tanaka San--a famous Japanese name.
There was a time that buildings in Tokyo--constructed with fewer than the required number and sub-standard pillars--made headlines in the Land of the Rising Sun.
Tanaka San told me that because the Japanese are aware their country sits atop the Ring of Fire, after the War they designed the country to withstand earthquakes.
When I lived there, I saw how they erected buildings. It was like the Lego toys. Each part is separate from the other. It looks easy to build and dismantle.
Apartments are made of light materials so that in cases of disasters, chances are high that a victim will live and sustain far less injuries if trapped from within. That goes without saying that rescue efforts will be made easier compared if materials were made from concrete.
Another amazing thing about the Japanese is how rapid the response teams arrive in cases like these. Power outage is almost instantaneous as was reported.
Almost all the media outlets alert the public immediately when a disaster strikes. One can see on television, mobile phones, Internet, and hear from the radio when a temblor happened and if a tsunami alert were up.
Japan is a country built to endure tremors. But this monster quake and tsunamis were far than the Japanese imagined.
In fact, apart from yesterday's tremor, the next largest earthquake in Japan was the 1707 Hōei earthquake, an 8.6-magnitude seism, that occurred off the Kii Peninsula and killed over 5,000 people on 28 October 1707, according to Wikipedia.
In terms of casualties, the deadliest quake was the 1923 Great Kantō earthquake, an 8.3-magnitude temblor that happened in Izu Ōshima with death toll between 100,000 and 142,000 on 1 September 1923.
A word about magnitude. Japan uses a different system of measuring earthquakes. In contrast to the Richter scale that we often read, they use the so-called shindo scale to describe the tremors.
Japan Guide says shindo measures the strength of a quake in a specific location, like what a person feels in that place. It sounds like a subjective assessment to me. On the other hand, Richter scale measures the energy from the core, okay, epicenter.
So, yesterday's temblor was 8.8, some say it's 8.9 or even 9.0 and above. This is important for historical purposes. So, I think, this early it has to be settled. Knowing the Japanese, they will surely put it on record accurately.
I am personally saddened by this event. I have lived a significant number of years there. Had so many fond memories. In fact, I published a book last year to perpetuate those memories.
I am glad that many of my friends in Sapporo, Tokyo and other areas in Japan are well. I can see their status updates in Facebook.
Just a few minutes ago, another Facebook friend, Tokyo-based Lan Cruz told me of unconfirmed reports that 1,300 had already perished.
Aftershocks as high as 7.0 magnitude are being felt. Tsunamis as high as 10 meters were reported. This is indeed sad.
International help is coming and I am sure the Japanese will appreciate them. In connection, The Japan Times said that the US National Park Service will send to Japan 144 cuttings from the original trees that Tokyo gave to the US way back in 1912 as a symbol of friendship between the two countries. This will enable the Japan Cherry Blossom Association continue to propagate the lineage of the country's national flower.
I attached a video of one of my favorite Japanese songs with the title Sakura or cherry blossoms. I hope you like it.
To all my friends in Japan--Japanese and non-Japanese--this will soon resolve. Japan will rise again. Kampai!

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