Wednesday, 25 June 2008

PostHeaderIcon Bad Japan: Natural Disasters

Natural Disasters

Run for the hills!

When most people in the world think of Japan I'm sure they imagine all the stereotypical classics of sushi, Mount Fuji and bullet trains. If you were to continue to pester someone about what else was synonymous with the country then I'm sure many people would mention that Japan was a little bit prone to earthquakes. This was certainly the view I had growing up which went part in parcel with another stereotype of: "those crafty Japanese with their advanced technology and earthquake proof structures."

After living in a very rural prefecture for almost a year, I look back on this view with a little chuckle at my naivety. Everything around me is very old; people and buildings alike. I believe that everything built before the late 70s/early 80s were not subject to strict regulations that reinforce them for earthquakes. I'm not sure when my apartment was built but it could be either side of that time. Still... my apartment looks like a castle compared to some of the houses near me. From my window I can see a street of houses with rusted sheet metal on them. Towering over them all is a very, very fragile looking warehouse. I'm surprised they stay standing when a truck passes by them on the road to be honest. This is about as far as you can get from the modern Japan that you constantly see on television.

I reckon a pretty moderate earthquake could bring down a lot of these houses. However, my area of Japan is not exactly prone to your everyday earthquakes. The rest of the country experiences a lot of small ones that'll knock some things off a book shelve. Occasionally there is a bigger one that will bring a lot more chaos and destruction. Much like the one that happened in the north of Japan about two weeks ago. However, whilst my prefecture may not experience frequent earthquakes... it experiences the earthquake. Every 150 years, two Teutonic plates just off the coast from my cosy bed decide they've had enough of each other. Decades of tension build up until one of them jolts away from the other causing a massive earthquake. It has even been labelled the Nankai Earthquake and the warning leaflets in my prefecture quite happily let you know that: "It is coming! PREPARE OR DIE!"

If I'm not crushed to death or burned alive in the magnitude 7.5-8.5 earthquake then there's still a whole round of ammunition to go through. It's very likely that a massive tsunami is going to hit the coastline (a 2 minute walk from my house) just following it. There are wave defences and a sea wall but even so the coastline is expected to be swallowed up. People in the mountains don't fair that much better as a whole hillside might bury the town. If they survive that then they need to deal with the tsunami that will then flow UP the river. You know you're in a bit of trouble when you live in the number one hot spot in a country that has frequent earthquakes AND came up with the word tsunami itself. If I think about it too much then reactions like these are pretty common of: Am I about to die? Part 1 and Part 2

I do have a little bit of time on my side. They expect that it will certainly happen by around 2050 but there is only a 10% chance just now. I don't know how they work that out but it seems quite low. I quite like to joke about the possibility of my gruesome death because I'll probably be out of here in just over a year. However, supposing I live to your average life expectancy. There is going to be one day when I turn on the television and it's going to tell me that Kochi prefecture in Japan has been wiped off the map. It's quite an unusual feeling to know that it will happen one day yet here I am teaching a bunch of kids that will probably still be here when it occurs. I've focused a lot of my own personal disaster but the whole of Japan is the same. Honestly, who'd want to live on this collection of mountainious rocks that violently shake themselves apart all the time?


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About Me

I am a 24 year old Scotsman currently teaching English to Japanese schoolchildren. I live in a small town on the east coast of Kochi prefecture.