Tottori earthquake

※ This article discusses a happening on 21st of October 2016.

On Friday, 21st of October, I have been at Kanji class after lunch time. Kanji is the third writing system of Japanese which is based on Chinese characters and mostly shares them with Chinese script. Chinese students have an advantage when learning them, because they don’t need to study the shape and stroke order. However, the pronounciation and especially meaning is mostly different. Kanji class is always an important event of the week, because I study Kanji regularly to be prepared for the weekly test. In Japanese class, we don’t get tested on vocabulary on a regular basis. We were discussing 15 Kanji, which includes

  • the stroke order

  • relation to other Kanjis

  • On’yomi and Kun’yomi readings

  • meaning when combined with other Kanji

Kanji are IMHO, by far, the most difficult topic about learning Japanese.

When our sensei was explaining some basic Kanji to use, suddenly all Japanese phones went off. Even though most students are exchange students using their mobile from their home country, some of them purchased them from previous students, purchased them in Japan in the first week or the phone is from East Asia. I think generally East Asian phones support this alarm warning system. If I remember correctly, the sound is similar to the one shown in this video. It was very loud and first I thought it was coming from the loudspeaker.

When I came to Japan, I thought the Richter scale is still the measure for earthquake energy. Apparently, scientists use the Moment magnitude scale today. An earthquake of magnitude 3 set in less than 10 seconds afterwards. The earth was shaking and we all watched outside as the trees were shaken and we could observe how the alignment of the university building changed relative to the trees outside. I estimate it lasted about 10-15 seconds. We all got educated on how to respond to an earthquake at the International Students Orientation. However, in our room no-one hid under the desk as proposed by common earthquake guidelines. In Martina’s class they did. Someone also phoned a student located at the residence at that time. She described the building shook really strong, but the building is very stable. The residence, unlike the university, was built after 1995 and is therefore especially robust. You can see multiple structure additionally supporting the building making it very earthquake-safe. But the residence at Minatojima is at sea level whereas the university is located ~150 meters above sea level (hence tremors will be damped more).

As it turns out, the earthquake’s epicenter was in Tottori Prefecture. Several building got destroyed, but no-one got seriously hurt. 150000 households had no electricity. Via media, we got asked to watch our for further earth quakes in the upcoming week. Whereas earthquakes got registered in Tottori during the next 3 days, no earthquake was registered at Kobe. In general, you can look up earthquakes at JMA, the Japan Meteorological Agency.

So in conclusion, it is exciting because of the alarm and you can clearly see how the earth is shaking. On the other hand, we survived and it is just a unexpected event during the day.