Friday, February 26, 2010

in Okinawa

I have not been blogging lately as I have been on the road, although there have been some interesting developments in Alberta politics, not least being the boundary change proposals. To make the most out of my Japan Rail Pass it was go-go-go this past week.

This Saturday morning (in Okinawa`s capital, Naha) I was woken up by... an earthquake. The noise of the shaking was as much a wakeup call as the movement itself. I happened to be in the capsule of a Japanese capsule hotel, which is evidently a good place to be since nothing would land on me and it is, in fact, extremely rare for buildings to pancake because of earthquakes in developed countries; - most people who are killed are those who tried to run outside and where hit by falling masonry while going out the door, etc. Peeking my head out the capsule it was apparent that the rest of the capsule occupants on my floor were all woken up as well. For all that, no objects seem to have been displaced anywhere such that there was any evidence that there had been as much shaking as I felt.

My first concern was that I was far from the epicenter and there was a disaster in the making, possibly from a tidal wave, for those closer. But as it turned out, I was already in one of the closest communities, and although I thought 80 km constitued close to the epicenter, apparently that is not that close unless it is a truly massive earthquake. Although Haiti was also hit by a magnitude 7, some Haitians were right on top of the epicenter and the effect of an earthquake on a developed and undeveloped country are furthermore, it seems, enormously different.

I searched for "earthquake", and nothing recent came up for quite a while, after which it occurred to me to check the US Geological Survey website. The USGS map indicated that I was on the Okinawa coast that was opposite to the epicentre, and so while there is some wraparound effect with tsunamis, for there to be much danger on my side of the island it would have to be an enormous tsunami on the directly exposed east coast.

Although a couple people went to check a television for news, most were back snoring again quite quickly. Interestingly, newsflow to seemed to mostly come in a rush as the story briefly topped the headlines. The USGS indicated that it received just a half dozen reports from Naha, population 300 000 plus, but more than 100 from equidistant from the epicentre Chatan, population 25 000, which led me to the (correct) assumption that there is a US military base there. As an aside, the US military presence in Okinawa is reportedly THE issue between Japan and the US right now, since Japan`s new centre-left government is keen on seeing the Americans ship out。

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