I’ve always known about Japan’s earthquake problems, not so much from the Geography classes in secondary school, but more from my Chinese Orchestra teachers since I was in primary school.
I was in Chinese Orchestra for the whole 6 years in primary school, and then with the People’s Association Youth Chinese Orchestra from primary 5 till secondary 4 for a total of 10 years. Well, technically speaking, it was till secondary 3 because I took a year’s leave in secondary 4 to focus on my ‘O’ levels and eventually left after that. But that was just part truth. I had wanted to leave Chinese Orchestra for a long time but Dad never allowed me to do that, and when the ‘O’ levels came, I thought that was my chance to get away from it. First, there’s no reason Dad would disapprove of my decision to focus on the exams. And second, I knew that after a year of me not going for practice on the weekends, Dad would have gotten used to it and it would become natural for me to not go and so, he wouldn’t even realise when I’ve left.
Ok, I’ve digressed a lot there.
My primary school principal, Mr. Cheng, was a very pleasant old man who loved Chinese Orchestra a lot. So, we got to travel every year. To Malaysia, that is. I remember around the time when I was 8 or 9, the teacher told us that we were going to visit Japan the following year because the principal said he was going to give us the budget. So, yay! right? But no, the following year, the teacher said, “Oh, the Japan trip has been cancelled because an earthquake happened so we can only go to Malaysia this year.” The little boy, that is me, was disappointed. But the teacher said, “We’ll go next year.” So yay!
The following year, time came for our travel planning and again, the teacher said, “Oh, the Japan trip has been cancelled because an earthquake happened so we can only go to Malaysia this year.” And I was thinking, why are we so unlucky always running into earthquakes in Japan when we are going to travel. Bear in mind, this was during a time where Internet wasn’t like it is today, so we had no way to verify that information. But the teacher said, “We’ll go next year.” So yay! And so, for the 6 years in primary school, I went to Malaysia 6 times. Bravo.
Now that I’m in Japan, I realised that there are tremors every day here. And according to Reuters, it’s as frequent as at least once every 5 minutes (many of which are so light, it cannot be felt). So thank you teachers for giving us hope and then dashing our dreams once a year.
Occasionally, when big quakes or typhoons happen here, friends would ask if we have them in Singapore. And the first time that happened, I also consciously realised for the first time, that we have so little natural disasters, it’s as good as none. We’re not on any major fault line, so we don’t experience earthquakes, although very rare major earthquakes in Indonesia can shake our land; we have no volcanoes for that same reason; we are surrounded by nations that protect us from tsunamis that may occur, and our worst natural threat is probably the high lightning occurrence and occasional floods which our government has very prettily coined “ponding.”
Seeing the extent of damages and fear and worry people have to live with in Japan, not knowing when the next disaster may strike; having to constantly be ready for such surprises either by stocking up food produce, and putting in research and development efforts to create new technology to safeguard lives, I came to realise that, disregarding the merits or demerits of our government, Singapore is a great place to be by virtue of its beingーsafe from most natural disasters.
When I move to a new place in Japan and get myself registered at each ward or city office, I am always given a set of materials on living in that jurisdiction which includes where you should evacuate to in the event of disasters. And to be honest, I’m not sure how many people actually read them beforehand, because I don’t.
When you’re watching the TV here and a beep comes on for newsflash, it’s worrying because, more often than not, it’s a notice about an earthquake somewhere. Occasionally, it’s about other major news like the election and stuff, which is when you heave a sigh of relief.
Every phone is Japan is pre-installed with an emergency notification app where even if you turn the phone to silent mode, it will ring loudly in case of emergencies with a message board that tells you what the emergency is and what actions you are suggested to take. So imagine you’re on the train and a notice comes in and everyone’s phone starts ringing the same sound, it’s like mass hysteria of the phones. Sometimes it’s about earthquakes and if it is, it’s usually big. Otherwise, there won’t be notifications. After some time, I’ve gradually begun to appreciate these emergency notifications warning me about landslide, because at the very least, there is a chance of it not happening where I am. But if it were an earthquake notification, it’s bound to hit where I am.
Sometimes, when I feel the land shake very slightly and brace myself for it to get bigger and it doesn’t, I would even wonder if the land did shake or was it me just getting giddy.
I recall a long time ago during a time when Indonesia was hit with an earthquake so bad, it was shaking in Singapore as well. Then, I had been on the computer for a few hours and the shake made me think I was getting dizzy from staring at the screen too long. I looked away from the screen a while and looked back again. Still, I could feel myself shaking. Uh oh… I thought. But when mum said she thinks she’s feeling faint, I realised the building was probably really shaking. Mum saw some beads randomly hung on one of the cabinets swinging from side to side and realised it was earthquake. She ran to the bedroom toilet, opened the door to a shitting-in-process Dad and said, “Earthquake!” And the very traumatised Dad said, “神經病啊!” LOL…
Ok, now you know Dad doesn’t lock his bathroom door =X
I guess Dad also likes to live dangerously.