5 Places I Don’t Want to Be During a Huge Earthquake in Japan

Many parts of our aging planet suffer from earthquakes in varying severity. One of the major hot-spots for such activity also happens to be the current world champ when it comes to being a populated metropolis. In the Greater Tokyo Area, there are just shy of 40 million people optimistically casting aside the thought that at any moment they could be caught in the violent throes of the big one.


Then again, perhaps it’s just something that I think about, having grown up in a country where the sensation of a shaking room probably only occurs when a drunk motorist has driven their car through the front of your house, or somebody slipped something in to your drink when you weren’t looking.

I’ve been in Japan during a handful of small earthquakes. On each occasion, on the verge of panic, my fears have been eased by a “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet” styled reassuring smile from a local. In addition to “you ain’t seen nothin’ yet”, the smiles also say “Holy mother of fuck, please let this be another insignificant little disturbance and not the big one” …or at least, that’s how I read them.

It makes one wonder, doesn’t it? Wonder about how he or she would fare in the face of Mother Nature’s worst. Would he/she be brave or would they cower? Would he/she know what to do in the wake of such a foreign experience?

And where would he or she least like to be when this was going down?

The Bathroom

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Japanese toilets have a whole lot of buttons you can press. I’m sure that at some point in trying to master them all, I’ll discover that it can make me toast. Granted, I’m still a learner when it comes to reading the Japanese language but I can’t see a button that makes earthquakes go away.

I can simply think of no place I’d least like to be than sitting atop the porcelain throne as it crumbles beneath me. I’d be vulnerable, dirty, and possibly in need of some serious medical help, all before I even get out of the bathroom.

Tokyo Sky Tree

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Actually, I can think of a place I’d less like to be during such a major seismic event than the toilet. It doesn’t help that I’m acutely acrophobic (unless I’m drunk). Tokyo Sky Tree stands an impressive 634 meters high (2,080 feet). Personally, I think that’s roughly 630 meters too much.

Of course, the tower does know it was erected in an earthquake hot-spot and so has two 50-ton earthquake dampers. So, it should be quite safe. But this ignores two things. 1) we’re talking about the big one, an earthquake so big that it doesn’t care about your cute little anti-earthquake technology, and 2) acrophobia is an irrational fear, just like anything ending in -phobia, and so all your common sense amounts to zilch.

Height is directly proportional with how much shaking you experience in an earthquake – fact. I would surely die of panic.

Landing At Narita or Haneda

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Or any airport, for that matter.

Of course, you would expect that the authorities would warn planes that were about to land of any such dangers associated with an earthquake, but if it was simply too late and they didn’t have time, man would that be a bad scenario.

Take-offs and landings are a bit dicey and shaky at the best of times. If a big old crack opens up in that runway, we’re all doomed!

On Board A Shinkansen

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One of the coolest and best things about Japan’s public transport could also potentially be among the worst during an earthquake. Apparently, the bullet trains are designed to automatically brake during an earthquake, however, a little like the Sky Tree, it’s hard to put my faith in it completely. The very best I could hope in this situation would be to soil myself and have nobody notice.

While they are hardwired in to the nation’s earthquake warning system, the lightning fast trains have gotta take a while to stop. Going almost 200 miles per hour along a track is cool. Traveling 200 miles per hour at the mercy of Mother Nature is anything but. Probably.

Mount Fuji

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It’s a volcano, people! Over the past thousand years and a bit more, Mt Fuji has erupted at a rate of around once every 76 years. The last time it erupted was more than 300 years ago. What better than a massive earthquake to set it off?!

In fact, there were fears just four days following the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami that Fuji-san might be unsettled by a shallow quake a short distance from the mountain. Fortunately, those fears quickly subsided but many believe that the Kantō area and Izu Peninsula are long overdue.

I don’t know about anybody else, but that’s a little concerning to me…

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8 thoughts on “5 Places I Don’t Want to Be During a Huge Earthquake in Japan

  1. Hello Jenny,

    Thank you so much for showing interest in my blog.

    Your blog is wonderful. I, too, am a lover of Japan. My wife is Japanese. Her mother lives in Osaka, but also has a home in Ogane, a small town in Tochigi Prefecture. I’ve been to Japan six times, the last was this past November. It is almost impossible for me to describe the absolute joy I experience when I’m there. Of course having my wife as a translator helps! I’m trying to learn Japanese, but it’s slow. I think I’m around the level of a two year old. 🙂 During our last visit we experienced a 6.5 earthquake. Your description is perfect. It was my first ever earthquake. We were in Tochigi, still in bed when… my first impression was that the house was on water–moving water. It lasted only thirty seconds or so but it seemed as if it weren’t going to stop.

    So yeah, there’s that. But, I figure what the hell, here in Alabama you can get smashed by a night time tornado…zero warning. So drink up and move on! ha!

    So, thank you again and Look forward to your posts!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G’day Paul, thanks for your comment. Jenni and I both contribute to this blog (I wrote this one).

      I too, have a Japanese wife. Like you, she is often my translator although my Japanese is getting much better. I guess it couldn’t get any worse than the nothing that I started with though, right… Perhaps I’m at the level of a 3-year old. To answer the question one of your posts asks “Just how BIG is a big word?” When it comes to Japanese – not very big at all just yet.

      You make a fair point about getting smashed by a tornado!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I like your writing 😊 Another very interesting post! High towers would definitely not be a fun place during an earthquake, yikes! Or during a fire! 😟 As for landing airplanes, that’s an interesting scenario. As an ex-airline worker, I can assure you at least that pilots can abort a landing pretty late on (they just pull up -which is why you should be wearing your seatbelt!) and they’re in constant communication with ATC 😊
    Let’s hope there are no more Big Ones coming! I’m happy to have found your blog, it’s very interesting! Japan is fascinating to me!

    Liked by 1 person

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