Atsuma Earthquake Writing
I took the time alone and walked around parks thinking that I would never see them again. It was lonely to be disconnected but I embraced every second of it. I took in every small detail around me that I would usually neglect and for the first time in my life, I wasn't scared of anything. I felt alive. Something sparked and I talked to the locals and had a great time together. It's so easy to just pull out a phone and have it entertain me but it was much more rewarding to interact with someone who is real and cares about what you had to say and offer.
During my lonely nights, I learned to make a candle with a pet bottle cap, oil and, a wick. During the lonely nights with my candle, I drew and read a lot. During my lonely nights of isolation, it felt good. Being away from distractions, it felt like the end of the world. Buildings that used to be brightly lit were dark and the skies were magnificent. The only time I got to go stargazing was when we went on hiking trips away from urban life but during the power outage, it was there right in front of me, begging to be embraced. And so I looked at the sky and listened carefully to the surroundings around me, people making jokes, laughing, and talking. It was refreshing to know that people still remembered to have fun despite the tough situation. Everywhere I went had the word quiet written on it, it was peaceful and finally, for the first time, people looked up instead of being totally distracted by their phone.
Thinking back about my experience, I realized how little control we have over the world we live in. I could have been dead by now but mother nature was nice enough to say, "Oops, I sneezed a little,". The Atsuma earthquake gave me a lot of time to think. Everything from my childhood and my future, I reflected and appreciated. I've always appreciated the fact that I'm alive but this time, even more. When everything was back to normal, I was thankful that all my friends were fine because people who lived in the mountainous region of the earthquake had it bad. We're so privileged and I don't care if we didn't have electricity or water for a few days because I'M STILL ALIVE. If I'm still alive, I have nothing to complain about. Well, I complain a lot but I do something about my situation but still! Moral of the story is, life is good.
The Atsuma earthquake was the strongest earthquake I've ever experienced during my 10 years living in Japan. That night, I was exhausted as I finally finished taking notes for history class and was relieved that I could sleep. During my sleep, I suddenly felt the place shaking, and at first, I thought it was just a dream but I eventually woke up seeing my shelf beside me shaking. I've never felt so scared in my life, and again, I thought I was dreaming for a moment. It felt so surreal. After the shake stopped, I straight away wrote to my friends asking if they were fine on LINE. Luckily, most of my friends replied and I was relieved. At that moment, my heart was beating so fast. I wasn’t even sure how I managed to text everyone when I was in such panic. After a few minutes when my family and I thought it was best to go sleep just in case there still was school on the next day, the lights went off and I was very shocked. Because I am not used to these types of situation, the first thing that came up on my mind was, “the world is going to end.”
The next day, I woke up hoping there would be power, unfortunately, there wasn't. My phone didn't have service as well, but luckily we had water. I started working on my homework thinking we have school on Friday and tried my best to finish it before it became dark. My mother and I decided to go out to the convenience store and also the elementary school nearby for information. The moment I stepped into the convenience store, I felt like I was in a movie. That one movie where everyone would die at the end. There were so many people in line, but mostly all of the items were sold out. This was when the reality really hit me. The reality that I’m actually experiencing this terrible situation. The situation where we don’t know when our power is going to come back. The situation where we don’t know when the stores are going to be totally filled up with items again. And lastly, the situation where we don’t know how long it will continue. After the typhoon came the thunderstorm, and then the earthquake. And how many more earthquakes will be coming? It was a terrifying thing to think about.
Eating dinner felt so different because there wasn't any light and there was no noise coming from the tv. We had some glowing sticks, but it wasn’t enough to light up the house. Before sleeping, I lay on my bed with only a small amount of party light and used my phone as my phone's 4G came back. It was a new experience and actually kind of relaxing.
Though we didn't have power, we had water and I felt really thankful as a lot of my friends were struggling with having no water. This day felt way more simple than others as I couldn't use my computer or the tv and my phone usage was limited. Washing dishes was different as well because the kitchen's faucet is sensor-operated and it needed power. We had to bring the water from the bathtub and I felt like we went back time. The power finally came back the next day around 3:30 pm and I realized the importance of power.
These 10 years in Japan, I always thought Hokkaido, or at least Sapporo, was one of the safest places, but that whole idea was erased with this experience. Living in a developed country, water, power, service (phone), and many more other things are so common for us to the point where we take those for granted. It made me think about how the people who experienced the Tohoku earthquake and also the people who still don't have power in Osaka because of the typhoon felt like. There are so many bad things happening in my life, and especially with this earthquake, I feel like I should appreciate the time I have and live in the moment more than overthinking about the future. Yes, my future might be important, but I think I'm not paying attention to the present which is happening right now at this moment. I hope when I'm overthinking something, I can forget everything for a while and try to experience the moment.
The earthquake on Thursday was extremely surprising to me, not only was it quite big, but it was also in Hokkaido, a place not quite known for earthquakes. When the actual shake happened, both my roommate and I weren't actually woken up by the shaking, but rather, the screaming coming from the other dorm students. After leaving the building for a few minutes, we returned to our rooms and went straight back to sleep. The earthquake itself didn't affect me at all but the following days where we didn't have resources such as water, food and electricity was a new experience.
I found it a curious coincidence that we had a series of extremely strong earthquakes back in Bali, right before I left for Sapporo, and as I get here, another earthquake hits hard. Maybe it’s as if God put a big red target on my back. The earthquake back home was extremely devastating to residents as we have the pretty poor infrastructure. Houses that weren’t built on good foundation broke apart, power lines were destroyed, water systems were contaminated, food was scarce, communication was basically shut down. When the Atsuma earthquake happened, I was quite curious about how the events would play out, knowing that I’m in a different country that is known around the world for having extremely good safety infrastructure.
This earthquake helped broaden my knowledge of Japanese procedures when it comes to natural disasters. Events such as water being turned off and electricity being shut down were new concepts to me. In Indonesia, it is quite common to have earthquakes, being set in the ring of fire and all, but I have never had the entire island's grid turned off or have water stopped. The evacuation procedure also differs from Indonesia, here, we are told to brace by hiding under our beds. On the other hand, in Indonesia, we are taught to bail out as fast as humanly possible and look for clear ground. Regarding the food situation, it wasn't as bad for us dorm students as it was for some others as we had the cook come in every day to cook us breakfast and dinner. Lunch was also quite easy to get my hands on as I brought dried foods from Indonesia which I was able to eat.
Moving forward, I probably won't change my lifestyle at all. Maybe I will get a better flashlight as my current one isn't that bright, but it really isn't a top priority. I still have enough foods stuff from Indonesia to last me a week without any food so I think I'll be fine in case another one comes. I probably will need to get a power bank though, as my phone eats through battery extremely quickly. In any case, the earthquake was a good reminder that nowhere is safe from natural disasters, not even peaceful, rural Hokkaido.