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August 19, 2011 2:59 AM   Subscribe

According to the newswires, Japan was just rattled by a magnitude 6.8 quake, causing a temporary shutdown of the Shinkansen. Are the aftershocks from the 3/11 quake still coming in hot and heavy? How large are recent tremors, and how are people responding when they hit?

Looking at the recent, updated information on this incredibly useful site, it seems that an average of two to three tremors have been striking the Tokyo area in recent months. Are these perceptible to the point of disrupting sleep--or a conversation during a meeting? Have people changed their daily habits in any way, avoiding elevators or long train rides to keep from getting caught unawares? Overall, are nerves still on edge in Tokyo?

What's the appropriate way of responding when an aftershock hits? Do people take notice of it, making an off-handed remark in conversation? Or does the cool-headed Tokyoite (or "Edokko") approach of maintaining a placid demeanor and calm expression--while lifting your teacup from the table to keep it from spilling--still rule the day?
posted by Gordion Knott to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Small earthquakes happen fairly often and people ignore them unless the shaking is very strong.
posted by twblalock at 3:19 AM on August 19, 2011

I don't really know what people in general do but I can tell you what I do. I've been in Tokyo for about a month and a half now. I notice 1-4 (I think) small aftershocks every few weeks I think. Nothing too scary. My telephone cord shakes and the apartment feels like it is swaying a bit (interestingly, I've only ever felt it when at home). Once I was woken up in the middle of the night, and that was probably the strongest quake I've experienced here. I went back to sleep pretty quickly...actually the rocking sensation sort of put me back to sleep, as strange as that sounds. Maybe if I had been living here for a while (for example, through the quake in March) I would have had a different feeling about it...

But, I suspect in general Japanese folks in Tokyo don't pay a lot of attention to them because I've never had a discussion about "last night's quake" or anything with any Japanese friends.

However, I think the situation in the north is still a bit tenuous so it's not great when a 6.3 quake hits the Touhoku coast, for example.
posted by dubitable at 3:56 AM on August 19, 2011

In my opinion, Tokyoites aren't as blazee as you might imagine, especially after the March earthquake and it's a common subject to talk about. Currently, things are mostly back to normal, but there is still a sense of anxiety and solidarity amongst the people in Tokyo concerning this whole situation, and the impending big earthquakes.

The magnitude and the frequency of after shocks have significantly dropped in Tokyo, but occasional strong ones do freak many people out still, including myself. Once you experience a strong earthquake where you're left wondering whether it's going to get stronger or how much longer it's going to continue, how much more destruction it's going to cause, we start having that same reaction with every little earthquake and aftershocks. I used to be nonchalant about frequent earthquakes in Japan, but things haven't been the same after the one in March. I think the same goes for many people living in Tokyo. There were very few casualties and damages in Tokyo, but I know people who lived high up in their apartments where everything fell and broke and they expected their lives to end. And that's deeply traumatic.

Of course earthquakes aren't the only problem. Power shortage due to the nuclear plant issue, and dealing with nuclear threat is still a major part of our lives since March. We have expected TEPCO to proceed with rolling blackouts in Tokyo this summer, since they evaluated that they could only provide 70% of the energy, but so far we've managed to avoid that by limiting and saving power. I think that's a big accomplishment that's not mentioned much abroad.
posted by snufkin5 at 4:39 AM on August 19, 2011

There is a big difference between how these aftershocks affect people in Tohoku as opposed to the rest of the country. In Tohoku, people are still getting estimates for repairs to damaged houses, or having really damaged buildings pulled down, so a strong enough aftershock stands a chance of doing real damage.
posted by plep at 7:19 AM on August 19, 2011

The aftershocks from the March 11 earthquake are supposed to continue for at least a year - or longer - and some of them are going to be quite powerful.

I have friends in Tokyo who are not blase about these aftershocks at all. Everyone's nerves are on edge, especially considering that the Kanto/Tokai region is due for the Big One at any moment. The March 11 quake was just the opening round.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:36 AM on August 19, 2011

The earthquake this afternoon was long, I mean there was enough time to discuss whether or not we should go under our desks. Some people I've talked to here think that maybe the worst earthquake/tsunami disaster has already happened but the real problem is that no one know if the local food is safe. I know some people in Fukushima who are sending their kids here (Sendai) because they are worried about contaminated food and water. Anyway, after the quake, everyone stood around watching tv, and once the tsunami warning was lifted, back to work.
posted by betweenthebars at 10:01 AM on August 19, 2011

I've been here for nigh on eleven years, and yeah, things are a bit more frayed. Pre-Fukushima, I used to vaguely enjoy earthquakes. They were, aside from the ones in the middle of the night, kind of fun, since the worst I'd ever felt was what made it to Chiba from the Niigata quake.

Now, when the quakes start, I get nervous, because I'm waiting for them to get stronger. See, I'd been told by some idiot that earthquakes always start out as strong as they're going to get, and weaken from there. This is nonsense. The Fukushima quake started out pretty mildly, and wasn't all that bad. Then it kept going and got a hell of a lot stronger. Now, when a quake hits, I admittedly get nervous. The 6.8 last week went on for quite a while, and, although mild, it got to me a little.

I'm nowhere near as on edge as I was, but I don't take earthquakes so lightly anymore. I don't think many people do. On the other hand, the frequency of the aftershocks has gone from several a day in March, to several a week in April and May, to one or two a week in June and July, to, well, not so many now. But yeah, supposedly we'll have random aftershocks above 5 and 6 for the rest of the year. I'm not thrilled, but it's a lot better than it was.

As betweenthebars mentions, the food situation is a lot more worrisome, especially with the lack of transparency from the government. I didn't eat much domestic beef before, and I really don't plan on buying it from here on out. There's been something of a run on rice, since the stuff still on the shelves is from last year's harvest, and the new rice will be hitting the shelves soon, and no one is sure how thorough or effective the testing will be. I'd imagine for most people here, the sense of impending doom is more about the radiation/contamination than earthquakes.
posted by Ghidorah at 6:49 AM on August 21, 2011

But, I suspect in general Japanese folks in Tokyo don't pay a lot of attention to them because I've never had a discussion about "last night's quake" or anything with any Japanese friends.

I just want to say that after saying this, and hearing what MeFites with a lot more history here have to say, I feel like this was kind of a clueless thing to say (sorry guys). Definitely listen to those folks who lived through the recent quake for a more authoritative opinion. Obviously.
posted by dubitable at 8:13 AM on August 21, 2011

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