Posts Tagged earthquake

August 16, 2005 – Massive earthquake

There was a massive earthquake in Northern Japan today. Even though it was 400km north east of Numazu, my apartment building was still shaking and creaking.

Every time there is an earthquake I am reminded just how much I hate them.

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November 8, 2004 – Earthquakes and Zombies


Today I got to spend some time with The Penpal. It looks like Monday might be our regular hangout day. I have the day off, and she stops by after work. We did some Japanese language practice and I learned some words to describe the taste of food.

After The Penpal left, I watched the new Dawn of the Dead with Palmer. I had some concerns about “fast” zombies and the fact that remakes are usually not as good as the original, but I was pleasantly surprised. It was also obviously filmed in Canada. In the background of one of the mall scenes was a KFC restaurant sporting the sign “PFK” which is the French name.

During the movie we felt two earthquakes. Palmer said that our building is modern and well designed. If we can feel a mild earthquake inside, it must be stronger outside. Not sure if that was reassuring at all.

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October 23, 2004 – Massive earthquake

What started off as a regular Saturday late shift turned a little more exciting. During one of my voice classes in the evening, the building started shaking. At first I was playing it off like a joke, standing and wobbling back and forth. My students asked me to sit down, which I did.

Then the shaking got stronger.

Most of the earthquakes I have experienced in my 13 months in Japan were over quickly. This one kept building in intensity and the shaking didn’t stop. One of my students, seeing that I was no longer enjoying myself, tried to reassure me.

“Don’t worry Andrew” he said. “This earthquake is… how do you say…” and then he moved his hands left and right.

“Side to side?” I responded.

“Yes, this earthquake is shaking side to side. Don’t worry.” he replied. “If it’s shaking…. how do you say…” and then he moved his hands up and down.

“Up and down?” I answered.

“Yes, if the earthquake is shaking up and down then we will all die” he explained in a very matter of fact manner. The other students sitting around nodded their agreement. It didn’t do much to make me feel better at all.

The building where Kawasaki NOVA is located is a tall, modern building near Kawasaki station. Like most modern buildings, it is built to flex during an earthquake. This helps keep the building from falling apart, but it provides a very unsettling feeling. The worst part for me was the sound of the window frames and door frames creaking as the building gently flexed back and forth.

During the rest of my shift, I felt no fewer than 5 aftershocks. Some of the aftershocks were the size of the normal earthquakes that I had previously experienced. I kept mentally reassuring myself that the aftershocks were side to side, so everything was fine.

After work I had several beers at Kiosk to calm my nerves. I took the train back to Noborito, and began a slow, slightly stumbly walk back to Hello House. About half way home my phone rang – it was my mom calling from Canada.

“Are you okay? I heard there was a big earthquake in Japan!” my mother exclaimed. Trying my best to sound sober and calm, I explained that the earthquake was in Niigata, which is about 300km north of where I was. I told her that I felt the earthquake, but was fine and there was nothing to worry about. After several reassurances, I managed to convince her that everything was okay and I didn’t need to move back to Canada immediately.

I learned later that the earthquake was actually much bigger and scarier than I had originally thought. 40 people died, and over 3000 were injured. One of the shinkansen trains derailed due to the shaking, fortunately with no injuries. When you are traveling over 200km/h, a derailment is not a pleasant thought.

Earthquakes are a part of life in Japan, but I don’t think I will ever get used to the ground moving. By the way – I am moving to one of the most earthquake prone areas of Japan. At least they will be the most prepared, right?

(2014 Update) The exchange with the student about side to side vs. up and down is still one of my favourite teaching stories in Japan. The conversation was so absurd compared to the terrifying earthquake that was happening. My original post had a lot less detail, mainly because I didn’t want anyone back home to worry.

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November 15, 2003 – Stupid Day

Original 2003 Post

I was woken up by yet ANOTHER earthquake at 3:00am last night. However I quickly returned to sleep. Stupid earthquakes. Also stupid are Japanese bank machines as they usually don`t like to give money after banking hours. Not very convenient. Third in the stupid category are NOVA teachers who don`t look closely at the file, and do the lesson you had planned to do immediately before you can. This gave me two minutes to find a new lesson for 4 students. Stupid day!

2013 Update

NOVA has 8 different skill levels for students. In 2003, they were still using the old textbook with 40 lessons each in all but the lowest level. Choosing a lesson for one student is reasonably easy – pick something they haven’t done before, or failing that, pick something they haven’t done recently. Choosing a lesson for multiple students makes this process more difficult. When you choose a lesson, it is important to write down the lesson they have chosen in the student’s file. That way if a student has multiple lessons in a day, they will not get the same lesson more than once. It is considered bad teaching etiquette to choose the same lesson another teacher has already reserved for the student. Also, it will cause new teachers to have a minor panic attack as they need to find something else to teach in a short period of time.

I am still surprised that some bank machines are not open 24 hours a day, and even more surprised that they close on holidays. It is a bank MACHINE. It doesn’t need time off. This is especially difficult in a very cash friendly country.

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November 12, 2003 – I didn’t travel half way around the world to watch Beverly Hills 90210

(rewrite of original post)

There was an earthquake today when I was teaching. My student was a teenage girl who was much more scared than I was. Since I was now a seasoned veteran of Japan (after 6 weeks) I tried to calm her down and just keep teaching through the shaking. I still really hate earthquakes, even small ones.

Speaking of things I hate, I really hate Beverly Hills 90210, which has somehow because the late night TV choice at Hello House. Since my only entertainment options in my room are old video games on the laptop or reading, I managed to sit through a few episodes. I didn’t travel half way around the world to watch crappy Beverly Hills 90210.

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October 15, 2003 – First Earthquake

Earthquake and fire warning sign in an elevator.

Earthquake and fire warning sign in an elevator.

Follow up training day in Yokohama. New teachers from all around the area went for training in Yokohama in a 10 story building. During the training everything started vibrating and shaking back and forth. The instructor calmly told us that it was just an earthquake.

JUST an earthquake.

After a few more seconds, one of the teachers asked us if we should hide under a desk or something. The instructor said we could, but it would be totally unnecessary and continued with the lesson like nothing was happening.

You can tell how long someone has been in Japan by how they react to an earthquake. With less than a month in the country I was absolutely scared shitless! The ground should never move. EVER.

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