Sunday, December 16, 2012

Earthquake Rookie in Tokyo

The neon lights of Akihabara, a special part in Tokyo
It had been a while since my last visit to Tokyo, and therefore I was excited to get another opportunity to visit this great city again last week.

I was invited to manage IT Project there to implement the latest Microsoft Active Directory technology, and besides the interesting project scope, it was a good opportunity to meet my friends and company partners again.

Tokyo is another place besides Hong Kong that has attracted my attention. Ever since I first set foot in Japan, I felt that the Japanese way of life is quite different than Hong Kong, but it took me a few years of living in here to really understand what that difference really means. (Perhaps I need to write a separate article about it) Anyway, it was good to be back in Tokyo, and I was enjoying the cold but sunny winter weather which was quite a change from the humidity in Hong Kong.

I was staying in a nice hotel in Shinjuku which was located very close to the main train station and (also important) a Starbucks for the daily supply of good coffee. The long working hours and the cold weather made me have several nights of good sleep, however on the 4th night around 5.00am something unusual happened which I couldn't really comprehend at that time. 

I remember I was in a deep sleep, dreaming something (innocent), until I suddenly felt that my bed was shaking. It started slowly, but the shaking got more intense, and it took me a couple of seconds to wake up and figure out what was going on. "Who is shaking my damn bed in the middle of the night??" I thought. I turned on the light, but nobody was there. Nevertheless the shaking continued more intense with even the walls making a slight screeching sound. 

"Well I guess this might be an earthquake or some real fatty couple is making love in the room above me", I thought. Then as sudden as it started, the shaking slowed, the walls stopped making noise and my bed became steady again. I lay there for a while with my eyes open, thinking what just happened. People in the next room also woke up as I heard them talking and in the room above me somebody went to toilet.
I guess they also must have woken up by this mystery. I lay there a foew more minutes until it got silent in the rooms around me, and as the shaking didn't return I fell asleep again.

The morning after I told my Japanese colleagues about the mystery from last night, and they said that I've probably experienced a small earthquake. Nevertheless they didn't seem to have noticed anything last night, and they didn't seem very impressed by my story either. "well we grew up with earthquakes, so when a small one like that happens at night we don't even wake up any more", one said. 

"So this was my first earthquake ever, while other people don't even wake up from it.. that sounds very exciting! ... great.... let's forget it and get back to work...", I thought...

Luckily the new Tokyo TV Tower
with 634 meters is Earthquake-proof..
We worked for that whole day on our project in the office, and everything was going quite well until I suddenly felt the same shaking as I felt that night before. It started slowly but quickly grew more intense and I could feel the whole floor underneath me shaking like we were on some bus ride in rural China.

I sat down on the office couch, and looked around the room. Everything seemed to be shaking, from the computer monitors, the desks, the closets to even the walls around me.  My colleague sat down next to me and said "wow.. this is a big earthquake", and while observing it all I started to think about the ceiling above me which made quite some noise. "How many floor levels there are above our heads?" I asked my colleague, who smiled and said "just one whole apartment". 

"Great...just one apartment.."

The shaking continued for a little longer, and I think the total time was almost 2 minutes, until it stopped as suddenly as it came. The walls became silent again and the ceiling stopped moving. 

"Roald I think you just experienced your first real earthquake", one of my colleagues said, and smiled. "I Guess so!" I said... remembering the one from last night, which was nothing compared to this. 

The radio suddenly stopped playing music and a female news announcer informed us that an earthquake hit the coastal area of Japan with a magnitude of 7.3 and a tsunami warning had been issued. Luckily we are in the middle of Tokyo which is high and dry protected from any Tsunami. And as everything seemed to be back to normal we continued to work on our project. 

For most Japanese this kind of events are nothing new, as they experience this a lot during their lives. However, for me it was a quite interesting experience as I never sat down on a couch in an apartment where the floor was moving like a roller coaster... I must say it is a quite unusual experience.

But... at least I know who shook my bed last night.... Hello Mother Earth!

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