I was sitting with a friend over drinks at Dreamland Bar when the silverware started pinging and the ceiling started thumping. We both thought it a little strange at this time of night. Then my drink started rippling and hopping out of the glass. The table was shaking. I wrote it off to my new upstairs neighbor's kids who are always afoot. That's when things really started shaking, the pictures on the wall, the floor, the people... the bed underneath me and the earth underneath it all.
Unable to ignore the shaking invading my dream any longer, I awoke, and with half conscious senses felt the earth quake. The twenty year old walls of my apartment creaked and moaned as they twisted with the earth's sway. My dishes clapped in the cabinets. Somewhere in another apartment something toppled.
I kept thinking the earth must shake itself still before long. But the shaking grew heavier. The earth became a cosmic roaring lion, and I but a tick on its back.
After another fifteen seconds or so the earth finally rested and my apartment settled. Fifteen seconds is an eternity when the world is shaking. My nerves split, unsure whether the shaking would reside or intensify. That's the scariest qustion: when will it stop?
At 1:45am this morning a 6.7 earthquake centered in the Pacific just offshore of Ibaraki prefecture shook me awake. Ibaraki prefecture borders Saitama prefecture (where yours truly sleeps) to the north east. The quake roared south through my prefecture and into Tokyo which lies 60 miles away.
Though the quake hit Ibaraki at a 6.7 on the Japanese shindo scale, by the time it woke me up it had dropped to a mid-range 3. The shindo scale ranges from 1 to 7 and works differently than the America richtor scale in that it measures the noticable effects of the quake as opposed to the quake's magnitude. On the shindo chart a 6.7 quake breaks gas and water lines and cracks walls. When the quake shook me at a level 3, I experienced a slight fear and heard my dishes rattle.
Though this quake started high on the scale only a few injuries were reported and around 2000 homes lost power. The effects of this latest quake are nothing to cry about given the severity of the carnage a level 6 quake inflicted upon Niigata prefecture last July. The Niigata quake resulted in eleven causalities, 1000 injuries, and a damaged nuclear reactor along with hundreds of other buildings.
I've felt a lot of tremors in my two years in Japan but this was by far the most turbulent. I was scared this time. I didn't know what was about to happen. And the worst part: I just lied in bed like a frightened idiot and hoped it would it end soon.
Here's the Japanese Shindo Earthquake chart: