St Edmund's

Japan 2023 – Day 3

Day 3

“Did you feel the building move last night?” asked Mrs Burton over a breakfast of sausages, egg, pickled fish and salad.  
Mr Kincaid paused; the single edamame bean he had been chasing for the last five minutes with his chopsticks returned to his bowl with a plink.  
“Yes.” Mrs Button grinned like a Cheshire cat; geography in motion.
A check of the US Geological Survey website confirmed it. An earthquake of  magnitude 4.5 had struck Tokyo at 10pm the previous evening. 
Mr Kincaid, it seemed, had missed it. 
But we should forgive him. The stats from the USGS suggested it was little more than a gentle nudge from a depth of 166km below the city. 
The news, however, had broached the theme for the day. While Jack’s all-white, urban tracksuit caused a sartorial tremour in the hotel foyer half an hour later, a glance at the morning copy of the Japan Times brought further reports of geological disturbance: a volcano on the island of Sakurajima had erupted the previous morning; a quake measuring 6.2 had hit Taiwan (no damage reported) and most notably scientists announced they had detected seismic shocks on Mars. 
Of course, all of the above (apart from what’s happening on Mars and Jack’s wardrobe choices) was part of everyday life in Japan. Dangerous quakes are rare and the Japanese authorities work hard to keep the country prepared. This was made clear during our first activity of the day – a morning of training in earthquake response courtesy of the Tokyo Fire Department. The St Eds Tour learned how to use a fire extinguisher, how to deal with smoke filled rooms and, and most importantly what to do when the floor starts to move. Violently. 
The Fire Dept’s famous earthquake simulator was cranked up to a magnitude 7, the same as the Sendai quake that caused a tsunami to strike eastern Japan in 2011. The students were instructed to get under a heavy wooden table and grab hold of one of its legs as the tremors built. This felt like trying to rugby-tackle an angry donkey; the kicks were immense and the table slid back and forth as if it were made of nothing.
The kind, enthusiastic and charismatic team at the Fire Department were impressed with our students, particularly their knowledge and understanding of the causes and metrics of earthquakes – a good job well done by Mrs B and Mr K. Their parting message was simple: life is always better when you are prepared and do your best to understand the things that might cause you trouble in the future. 
Luckily, it was Karaoke next. We shut the door on the world and sang badly for two hours until our voices cracked and somebody took the mic off Charlotte. Then it was more shopping, more sushi and the build up to the main event of the day was complete. 
None of us had every seen a sumo wrestler in the… er… flesh before. There is an obvious link here to the theme of earthquakes and mountains etc, but their most startling qualities were gentleness, warmth and well… childish humour, which went down a treat. 
Instead of spectating at a professional match, we were invited to a private demonstration of techniques and the rituals that come before the bout. But really, all the two giant babies in nappies wanted to do was crash into our tables, pretended to pop each others eyes out, let a couple of students try to push them out of the ring and then pose for sweaty hugs in front of the many cameras. They were marvellous: monstrous strength deftly applied and perfectly restrained. 
A very good day. Thanks to Mr Kincaid and Mrs B.
Tomorrow we leave Tokyo and take the bus to Nagano Prefecture and the Japanese Alps.