Prior to moving to Japan, I was directed by my company to a website with information about the country, its customs, and what to expect as an expat. One of the things I remember reading is that due to Japan’s geography, there was at least one earthquake a day somewhere in the country or just off its coast. This was slightly alarming, but having grown up in California, earthquakes are the one natural disaster with which I am probably most comfortable.

In the not quite week since moving here (one week ago I was on a plane with about 11 hours to go before touching down at Narita Airport–so crazy), I have been asked more than once if the threat of earthquakes made me nervous. My response has consistently been something like, “Well, I grew up in California and I was there during the big quake in 1989, so I have some familiarity with earthquakes.” (I try not to say too much about how well I remember the 1989 earthquake because it ages me a little…) I also mentioned that we had an earthquake this year in New York. Well, not in New York (the epicenter was near D.C.), but we felt it in New York. This seemed to satisfy them somewhat.

On my first day of work, I noticed that the woman sitting next to me had this very large fanny pack and hard hat on the back of her chair. I knew instantly that this was earthquake related. And then, on Thursday, I received this email from one of the women on my team:

I replied back that I did not have one and Andoh-san told me she’d order one for me. On Friday, when I got back from lunch, this was at my desk.

While the helmet makes me chuckle just a bit, no doubt I will be very grateful for it in an emergency.

In case you can’t read the photo, here is what constitutes the Emergency Kit: belt bag, emergency blanket, compressed towel and globes, radio light/mobile battery charger, dust mask, surgical (anti virus) mask, whistle with strap, emergency food for 3 days, survival water for 3 days, first aid kit, item list.
Additionally, in the front pocket, is a map of the city with emergency routes, as well a section on first aid, how to proceed in case of an emergency, and this section: Useful Phrases, which gives English and Japanese. So smart!

As you can see, the kit is pretty well designed (as you’d expect in a country where earthquakes are a daily occurrence). The zipper is actually zip-tied shut, so I couldn’t get into the bag, but the list made me feel pretty comfortable. The one thing that occurred to me is I probably need to take a pair of tennis shoes to the office…which made me suddenly very glad that in my attempt to minimize the number of pairs of shoes I was bringing, I brought two pairs of tennis shoes. It also made me realize I need to put together a similar 72-hour kit for my apartment.

Given all of this conversation and preparation for an earthquake, it seemed only appropriate that while I was laying in bed last night, exhausted from a week full of new experiences and drinks out with coworkers, I felt my first Japanese earthquake. It was just a baby one and not very long. I’m sure most people didn’t even feel it because had I been doing anything besides laying in bed, I doubt I would have caught it. In fact, it was so little I wondered if maybe it was my little washer shaking my floor. But it wasn’t (there’s no way my washer could shake the floor). I checked the interwebs and, while so small it wasn’t newsworthy, I found a very useful site called Quakes: Live Earthquakes Map and discovered there was a 4.9 magnitude quake about 130 miles from Tokyo. And with that, my week of “firsts” feels incredibly complete.

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