a p r i l - 3 0 - 2 0 1 1
MY OLD PYSCHIATRIST WAS ON THE FRONT PAGE OF THE JAPAN TIMES, TALKING ABOUT THE PSYCHOLOGICAL FALLOUT FROM THE MARCH 11 DISASTERS. DR NODA, OR NODA SENSEI AS I KNEW HIM, IS HELPING FOREIGNERS AFFECTED BY THE EARTHQUAKE IN TOHOKU. Interestingly, I was booked in to see Dr Noda the morning of March 11, but couldn't be bothered getting up (I had been postponing our appointments for months.) Obviously, I wasn't finding Dr Noda of much help in resolving my panic attacks, otherwise I would have been up, bright and early, to make my appointment. Panic disorder is not Dr Noda's forte, I am afraid. That said, he seems to be popular with his patients, especially the foreign ones. In the Japan Times article, he says something like this: "The four kinds of people most disadvantaged in a disaster: children, the elderly, the handicapped, and foreigners." That may be true generally but in this case I think foreigners had an advantage, because they didn't blindly believe the authorites when they said the reactors were safe, and they could leave the country when the shit hit the fan.
m a r c h - 1 3 - 2 0 1 1
EVER SINCE I MOVED TO JAPAN AT THE END OF THE YEAR 2000 I HAVE KIND OF KNOWN, DEEP IN MY BONES, THAT ONE DAY I WOULD BE CAUGHT UP IN A BIG EARTHQUAKE. The day before I left Australia on my journey to Tokyo, where I hoped to set up, my cousin jinxed me: "That place is overdue for the Big One!" Since I was planning on staying a long time, it was simply a matter of when, rather than if, the Big One would arrive. Or so I reasoned at the time. In my first years in Tokyo, at a rickety old wooden house in Taito Ward near Uguisudani, I would lie awake some nights in fear, convinced I would perish before the dawn. That house used to tremble easily and I was on the second floor, overlooking a graveyard, with no real viable means of escape. On top of that, it was a fire hazard. As time went by, to assauge my fear, I did some research and learnt the mechanisms behind earthquakes and volcanism, and why Japan is so vulnerable to them. Out of this research, a grudging fascination began to grow. Perhaps this fascination was grounded in hope: by understanding the frequent tremors and temblors which rock these isles, I would have a better chance of surviving them. From time to time I have wondered if it was possible to predict earthquakes, either through scientific methods, or more esoteric means. Once I had a migraine just before an earthquake struck, and I wondered if seismic stress could cause headaches in especially sensitive humans. More recently, I have been interested in the diagnosis of anxiety attacks as premonitions of impending natural and man-made disasters.
As fate would have it, I found myself in the middle of Japan's monster earthquake of 2011. Not just any earthquake, but a magnitude 9.0 mother, which has become known as the Great Offshore Tohoku Earthquake. Apparently it is the fourth largest earthquake to have occured anywhere since they started keeping accurate measurements back around the year 1900, and the largest to have happened in Japan. Which kind of grants me access to a pretty exclusive club... the folk who have survived magnitude 9 quakes. Luckily for me, I was in Tokyo when the giant temblor struck. The shaking was scary, but the damage amazingly minimal. Japanese building codes seemed to have this bout with Nature. It was the tsunami that did most of the damage, but Tokyo is a long way from the sea and tsunamis are not really a problem here. Not this time, anyway.
Interestingly, I had a dream about being in an earthquake the night before it happened. It is not so much of a coincidence, my logical brain would argue, since I often dream of earthquakes. These dreams reflect my fear of earthquakes, a kind of background anxiety which began when I arrived in Japan on November 11, 2000. Then again, my intuitive brain would contend, maybe these dreams were warnings. Some two years ago I began suffering chronic panic attacks. From time to time I have wondered if these attacks were premonitions of a kind, foretelling some kind of distaster. Perhaps my animal brain (which we all have, and it is the part of the brain that governs fear) was picking up a vibe. Pressure building up in the earth, a surge in magnetism or something like that. My panic attacks got so bad at the end of last year that I decided to leave Japan for good, and try to find a new life in Vietnam, where my girlfriend lives. There is a particular narrow street in Ichinoe, Imai Dori just off the intersection with Kan Nana Dori (the Seventh Ring Road), which I can't walk down without feeling a sense of dread. I develop tunnel vision and a sense of unreality whenever I look down that narrow road. As fate would have it, that was the street I was walking when the earthquake hit today.
I had just bought a Manhatten Burger and fries from McDonald's and had jogged across Kan Nana Dori when I met my date with destiny. I never got to eat that Manhatten! After dashing across the Seventh Ring Road as the pedestrian lights turned red, I walked briskly past the 7/11 convenience store on the corner. Past the dry-cleaners and was outside the pharmacist that sits on the edge of a little lane which runs off Imai Dori, perpendicular to Kan Nana Dori, back towards Ichinoe Station. My place of employment was just 10 meters away, opposite Dr Kida's clinic. As I looked down the lane past my workplace and the doctor's house and garage sheltering his collection of sports cars, I overheard some old women muttering and moaning that something bad was afoot. That's when I noticed the telegraph poles were swaying, like palm trees in a heavy wind. Since it was windy and in any case wind can't blow telegraph poles around like that, I began to grow alarmed. Then I noticed the ground was moving beneath my feet. There were voices in the air... old ladies shouting Ouki! ("big!"), and Nagai! ("long"), referring to the strength and duration of this shaking we were encountering. It was an earthquake. Buildings were bobbing up and down, rocking side to side. I knew at once: this was the moment I have been dreading, all those years. This was the Big One. The shaking was so bad, I had to hang on to a tree to stay upright.
It seemed to last forever, although in reality it was probably only a minute or two. In the days which followed, I heard a rumour that people watching TV or using the Internet in Tokyo had received a heads-up that the quake was on its way, and the YouTube clip above confirms this rumour as truth. Like ripples radiating from a pebble thrown into a pond, it took time for the earthquake's S-waves to reach Tokyo. As I was out on the street, I got no warning apart from my dream and recurring panic attacks. The thought crossed my mind, more than once, that I should pull out my camera phone and start filming, but I was too scared to do that. Thankfully there were millions of other folk in Tokyo and across eastern Japan with camera phones, so there is no shortage of footage of this quake. It will all end up on YouTube in the weeks and months ahead. When the shaking did eventually subside I walked, dazed, to Dr Kida's clinic, and sat down on the concrete stairs which were freshly laid late last year. My legs had literally turned to jelly, liquefied. I thought for a minute what I should do.
When the second earthquake struck on Friday, I was in my boss's school (which wasn't open). I ran out the door and hurried up the street, looking for some open space. The best I could find was a car park next to this vegetable plot. The owner of the vege plot is this guy I have always regarded as semi-hardcore, because he has tatooes. And he keeps African love birds. At the time of the quake, he was talking to his love birds and stroking them. His parrots looked totally serene. I was the only lifeform there that was freaking out.
I went down to the convenience store down the road to get some lunch today and found that all the shelves were bare (all the shelves that usually hold food items.) There were still plenty of Coca Cola and beer and stuff but all the important stuff was gone. I have have never seen that before in a Japanese combini. Obviously the place had been raided by nervous Japanese stocking up on emergency supplies. All the food items have been snatched up and the only items they stock are Coca Cola and beer. Even the ice cream was all gone! I chided myself on my lack of natural disaster savviness... and began to worry that I would have to go the next few days without food (all I had at home was a jar of Vegemite!) Thankfully there was a supermarket nearby which had plenty of produce. I stocked up.
In the months and weeks leading up to the quake, I had developed a case of agoraphobia which, in retrospect, may have been a preemptive form of protection. In January I quit my job singing on the phones at Ogikubo, on the other side of Tokyo from my house, a full 90 minute train ride away.
Friday night when I got home from my earthquake encounter in Tokyo I was fired up with adrenalin and buzzing with the feeling you can only get from life threatening experiences, but tonight I am starting to feel depressed. I only slept about an hour last night because of the constant aftershocks (150 so far, apparently). Now when you switch on TV all you can hear about is that there could be another Chernobyll just up the coast. Who has to deal with earthquakes and tsunamis and nuclear fallout in the same week? What kind of insane country is? On the other hand, watching those clips on TV of those tsunamis inflicting Biblical style destruction, I got the impression that Japan is a an elemental kind of country. Kind of like Iceland... it's a place where the raw elements (air, water, fire, earth, etc) come out to play.
The Big One was supposed to hit elsewhere. The consensus among public officials and many scientists in Japan was that the next mega-quake would most likely occur on the Nankai Trough, a tectonic plate boundary southwest of Tokyo. Two sections of that fault had already broken, and since the 1970s the scientific orthodoxy in Japan had been that the easternmost section was primed to break next. Officials had designated the hypothetical event the Tokai Earthquake.
I have been noticing these strange ponds of water in Tokyo the last two days. I didn't know what they were caused by at first because it hadn't rained for a week (actually it didn't rain but snowed, but whatever.) As it turns out, this is a classic symptom of earthquake soil liquefication. Down the Edo River at Urayasu, soil liquefication has become particularly pronounced. In the weeks which followed the superquake, Tokyo Disneyland (Urayasu's most famous attraction) remained closed, its huge carpark covered with grey sludge. In a metaphor which might have satisfied Jean Baudrillard, Disneyland (that ultimate symbol of modern fantasy!) was built on artificial land. As Buadrillard noted following the terrorist attacks in New York in 2001, when reality erupts amidst fantasy (consumerist society), fantasy always implodes. Perhaps such a thing happened here, at Urayasu, in the aftermath of the quake: the consumerist illusion of Tokyo Disneyland imploded, sank into the viscous sludge upon which it was built. If only Baudrillard had lived to see this moment, I am sure he would have commented!
I wonder if my panic attacks were telling me that something bad was going to happen in Japan. Animals can predict earthquakes and the part of the brain which deals with fear is a primitive animal part of the brain. It can't communicate in language but it gave me panic attacks as a way to prod me out of harm's way.
I have been reading about Omori's Law, it is a mathematical equation devised by a Japanese scientest (Mr Omori) back in 1895 regarding aftershocks to an earthquake, and it seems like Mr Omori's theory is holding true in this case. The aftershocks have been decreasing in size and number. I am starting to feel like I have made it through.
What do they call the gaijin (foreigners) who fled Tokyo in the week following the quake? Flygin. Ah well... I would rather be a flyjin than a diejin! But this whole thing must compare with my arrest as the most exciting thing that has happened in my life so far! It will hopefully provide dinner table conversation fodder for many years to come!
There are supposed to be rolling blackouts although I haven't experienced any yet. Different areas will have their electricity cut off for 3 to 6 hours at a time in order to save power, since the nuclear reactors are offline. Train lines have been shut down to save power. I heard from my old landlord there was a line of more 1000 people waiting outside Ueno Keisei Station because of the limited number of services.
As fate would have it, I visited Fukushima Prefecture at the end of the year 2010. My friend Kenichi wanted to take me to Iwaki, a little onsen town south of Sendai. ..
a p r i l - 1 9 - 2 0 0 8
BREAKING NEWS... AND ONCE AGAIN, CONFIRMATION THAT A LARGE NUMBER OF PEOPLE CAN FEEL EARTHQUAKES BEFORE THEY HAPPEN. ON TOP OF THAT, I AM STARTLED TO REALIZE THAT I CAN DETERMINE WHEN AND WHERE EARTHQUAKES HAPPEN (IN THE ENGLISH SPEAKING WORLD AT LEAST), SOLELY THROUGH FLUCTUATIONS IN MY WEB TRAFFIC. Actually not fluctuations as such, but spikes. I had a spike today of this Earthquake Headaches site, just as dramatic as the spike which took place in February, following a rare earthquake in England. Once I discovered proof of the spike, I realized: an earthquake must have taken place somewhere. Or maybe an earthquake was about to happen somewhere, and folk were getting sensitive and predicting it (and rendering their extra sensory perceptions visible, via Google or Yahoo or whatever their particular search engine was.) I consulted Google Analytics, and confirmed that, indeed, this site received about 120 hits today, a big increase on its usual one or two or three. Closer analysis of the statistics suggested something interesting: nearly all of the hits had originated from inside the geographical borders of the United States. Even more curiously, most of the hits had sprung out of the Mid West states like Illinois and Indiana. I wondered in excitement: had there been an earthquake there? It wasn't on the news here in Japan, but it soon became apparent, that an earthquake had indeed shaken this particular part of the planet, rattled people out of bed. Early on a Friday morning. As the Birmingham News reported today (April 18, 2008): "A magnitude 5.2 earthquake that shook southern Illinois and Indiana this morning was felt in north and central Alabama, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
"Thirty-one people from across north Alabama had reported to the survey by 9 a.m. today that they had felt the quake, according to the survey's Web site.
"The reports came in from Florence, Killen, Muscle Shoals, Somerville, Tuscumbia, Harvest, Madison, Owens Cross Roads and Huntsville. Two other reports not on the survey came from Tuscaloosa.
"Sandy Ebersole, a geologist in the hazards division of the Geological Survey of Alabama, said it wouldn't be unusual to feel that size of an earthquake as far away as Alabama. "The underlying geology is a little different in the eastern U.S. than the west ... because the crust is little thicker the shock waves will travel farther," she said.
"Earthquakes are not unusual in Alabama, and five have been detected in the state so far this year, Ebersole said. The latest one was a 2.6-magnitude temblor on April 8 centered about 20 miles southwest of Jasper. The biggest one in Alabama history was of 5.1 magnitude in Birmingham in 1916..."
Of the 120 hits this site received after the quake, about 36 originated in Illinois, 20 in Indiana, 13 in Missouri and 12 in Kentucky. Texas, California and Alabama were also particularly active. It is only natural that people shaken by an earthquake, in a part of the world where they are comparatively rare, would be inspired to go online and seek more information on seismic issues in general. It is only logical that a small channel of this localized traffic flood would get directed to my site, via search engines and the like. That is not the exciting thing for me. Rather, it is the nature of the keywords, that these visitors used to reach me. These keywords predominantly revolve around an extrasensory theme. Popular keywords included "earthquake migraine", "earthquake headache", "earthquake sensitive" and "earthquake dizziness". "Dizzy before earthquakes" were the keywords which brought two hits to this site. Two more hits came on the back of the search phrase "headaches after earthquake". "Can earthquakes trigger migraines?" asked one searcher, before being directed my way. Another asked: "Can you feel nauseous before an earthquake?" I must confess I have been feeling nauseous, and dizzy, and at times on the verge of a migraine for the past week now, and I don't even live in America. Perhaps I was keying into the impending Alabama quake, just like all these Google/Yahoo earthquake migraine searchers were. For I am convinced, the only reason all these people from states like Illinois and Alabama went on the Internet after the quake, and searched for information on the link between seismic activity and headaches, is because they in fact had a headache before the quake struck. Or during it, or after it. Which in itself is very interesting, and kind of proof, via Google/Yahoo, that earthquake migraines are a fact.
If ESP exists, wouldn't it be amazing, that a search engine like Google was the vehicle through which you could prove its existence? Just as an earthquake rumbles through space, its energy vibrates through the mental sphere, leaving impressions on the Internet. That is my theory, confirmed again today, by the Illinois earthquake.
m a r c h - 1 6 - 2 0 0 8
I HAVE BECOME A BIG FAN OF STATISTICS LATELY, AND I AM STARTING TO THINK, THAT THROUGH NUMBERS ONE CAN DISCERN THE NORMALLY INVISIBLE IMPRINT OF GOD. EVER SINCE THE START OF THIS YEAR, MEANWHILE, IT HAS BECOME OBVIOUS THAT MY HOMEPAGE NOW HAS A LIFE OF ITS OWN. Pages suddenly rocket up in PageRank, for no apparent reason. Dig around a little, though, poke about a little and reason reveals itself -- there is always a reason. Way back in the early days of the Internet, in 1995 I took part in an online experiment centered in Amsterdam I believe, trying to prove the validity of ESP. The idea was we the experimented upon had to guess what image we were to be dished with, before it was dished out. The first time I tried it, or maybe the second time, the prompt came up and asked me what image I could see in my mind. I said swans. A few seconds later (or a few tens of seconds later, this being the mid 1990s, and I was on a modem connection) the picture came on the screen: some classic European style swans sailing around a lake. I had guessed it! Unless of course the whole thing was a prank. But it seemed like a legitimate project. For the next day or two I was on an emotional high, wondering whether I would become famous. Would the media contact me, interview me about my ESP prowess? Of course, nobody contacted or got back to me, nothing happened, I didn't get famous, and I soon forgot the entire incident.
Earlier this year, on February 27 2008 in fact, there was a rare and interesting earthquake in the United Kingdom. I heard about it on CNN, and I discussed it with some English chums of mine, at my telephone singing job in Tokyo. Measuring 5.something on the Richter scale, the quake compared with the event which rattled me out of bed in Wollongong Australia in 1989 (the Newcastle Quake), but didn't even come to close, to some of the tremors I have experienced in Japan (to be honest, I don't even notice them anymore. They are that ubiqitious.) It was small, but it happened in a part of the world which doesn't often experience earthquakes, and thus it was news. I didn't pay much attention at the time.
But I was today to find, while skimming through my Google Analytics results, that at the same time the pen on the Richter graph was frantically spiking up and down in England, an earthquake was also shaking around my homepage. Things were spiking, not as awesomely powerful as the February 1-3 2008 eruption on my Learning Icelandic site, when 1 per cent of the population of Iceland romped through, but still quite noteworthy nonetheless. Traffic on Earthquake Migraines soared from a typical 0 to 2 folk per day, to 96 on February 27. And then declined, mysteriously. Obviously, there had been some kind of event, to prompt it. Immediately it occurred to me: wasn't that the day of the earthquake in England? I did a bit more research using Analytics, and found that indeed much of that spike originated from the U.K. I discovered some UK forums and blogs had linked to this site, for example Eclectic, Respawned, and so on. However, most of the traffic came from Google and Yahoo inquiries like "earthquake migraine" and "earthquake headache". Laid out in that Google Analytics report, was statistical proof, of the earthquake migraine effect in operation. It seemed as if a fair number of English folk had experienced the elusive earthquake migraine, and were then going to Google and Yahoo for answers and feedback and their own research. Google and Yahoo et al led them to me. But I wasn't the only one to notice this phenomenon.
Eclectic wrote: "The earth moved for me and millions of others this morning shortly before 1.00am. Having experienced frequent tremors whilst living in Singapore I knew what was happening but many others didn't. Shortly after the one o'clock news on Talk Sport radio the station was inundated by emails and calls from worried listeners, ringing in from one end of the country to the other.
o c t o b e r - 1 6 - 2 0 0 5
ARE YOU EARTHQUAKE SENSITIVE? IS THERE A CONNECTION BETWEEN EARTHQUAKES AND MIGRAINE HEADACHES? Are people sensitive to on-coming earthquakes the same way that animals appear to be? First I want to mention a strange experience today which has got me wondering -- is there a connection between earthquakes and migraine headaches? The beginning of the story is that last Sunday I went a little out of Tokyo (where I live) by train (the new Tsukuba Express) looking for some fresh pastures (Saitama Prefecture). While I was walking through the rice and vegetable fields, I got a migraine. All week I have had a bit of a headache and a stiff neck. Well anyway, I went back to the same place today that I went to last Sunday, out in the country. As I started walking through the farms (which look nice this time of the year -- it is a change to see some greenery after living in concrete Tokyo) I felt the muscles in my neck clench up, and I was worried that another migraine was about to start. But then suddenly the ground started shaking, and I realised there was an earthquake in progress. The muscles in my neck got really tight, then relaxed as soon as the earthquake was over (the earthquake only lasted for a few seconds but it felt strong.) Since then, the headache I had has disappeared. When I got home I checked one of the earthquake monitors on the Internet and it turns out that the place I went to today was right in the middle of the epicenter of the earthquake. I was probably standing on top of the faultline when it slipped. So I am wondering: maybe the migraine I had was caused by the tension that was building on that faultline? It doesn't sound like the most scientific theory but after checking on the Internet, I realised that a lot of people say they suffer migraines just before an earthquake strikes.
One lady said on her website: "Laugh all you want - I am an earthquake sensitive of proven abilities. I got my first true migraine living in Los Angeles, about a month after I arrived. A couple of weeks later, Friday afternoon rush hour, and bang! another migraine, just as radio reports of a semi-notable offshore temblor began to filter in. As the months went by, though, my roommate Leticia - an L.A. correspondant for Mexican Vogue, walking the Telemundo beat - noted that every time I felt ill in the slightest, there was a corresponding earthquake within twelve hours or so, sometimes before, sometimes just after. A tiny little tremor? Vomiting, diarrhea. Something in the four-point to five-point range? Migraine headache."
I will see in the future whether having a migraine means that an earthquake must be on its way. I will have plenty of opportunities -- there are usually 5-10 earthquakes here every year! Sooner or later there is going to be a Big One that kills a lot of people, so if I have an advanced warning system such a migraine, it will be a big help to me.
p r o j e c t + m i g r a i n e
I MIGHT NOT EXACTLY BE THE FIRST PERSON TO HAVE SUFFERED SEVERE HEADACHES JUST BEFORE AN EARTHQUAKE STRIKES, AS THESE FOLLOWING TESTIMONIALS REPORT. These testimonials have been culled from the Internet. To read the original report, just click on the link.
One nameless sensitive had this to report on the migraine/earthquake connection: "I have recently begun having severe three day headaches and don't know how to account for that. Also, I documented on several occasions, having severe headaches a few hours prior to an earthquake, both in Washington state and in California and Alaska. This is where the earthquakes were centered."
It turns out there is a body already investigating the link between migraine headaches and earthquakes. According to the Charlotte King Effect site: "There have always been, and will always be, earthquakes. Scientists tell us that you can't predict an earthquake or volcanic eruption, but that's no longer true. Through the efforts of Charlotte King who pioneered Biological Earthquake Prediction, and Chris Dodge of the US Library of Congress, a volunteer research project was born - aptly named Project Migraine. The focus of this project was to prove, beyond coincidence, that earthquakes and volcanic eruptions could be forecast, prospective of the event, giving time, magnitude, location and probability.
"It was later discovered that there may be, in addition to Charlotte, hundreds, and even thousands of other people around the world who may be able to "feel and hear" earthquake and volcanic eruptions before they actually take place.
"If you walk into a room and bump into furniture or you go to pour some juice and miss the glass, or go to put sugar in your tea and end up with sugar on the table, you may be clumsy, or you may be a potential biological sensitive..
"If you go to pick up your car keys or a book and drop it, and pick it up again and again it slips through your fingers, these are all symptoms of problems being caused by depth perception, which is affected by the EMF changes your body is responding to..
"If you never get headaches and all the sudden you get one without any particular stress or other trigger, and then just as suddenly it is gone, watch the papers or listen to the news, and see where the earthquake strikes in 12-72 hours.. usually over 5.0 unless it is local to where you are..."
e a r t h + q u a k e + s e n s i t i v i t y
THIS IS FROM AN INTERESTING SITE I RECENTLY FOUND ABOUT SENSITIVITY TO EARTHQUAKES -- it is called Earthquake Triggering, Earthquake Precursors, and Earthquake Sensitivity: