I always advise visitors to Japan not to sleep naked. In the event of an earthquake or tsunami, the last thing you want to do is look for your underwear in the middle of the night while you’re trying to leave the building. Like many people out there, I don’t listen to my own advice.
For those of us not from the ring of fire – your very first earthquake is either a novelty or something that scared the crap out of you. For me, it was the latter.
But I’ve been here for two years now. I’m used to earthquakes. They really do happen quite often. I’m no longer a stranger to Mother Nature’s formidable temper. These days, I usually just ignore her and get on with it.
But let’s face it. We women can be really really REALLY scary.
This morning, Mother Nature scared the crap out of me again. I was naked and in my futon. Thankfully, I wasn’t asleep. I looked around and waited for the earthquake to end, like it always does. But it went on…and on… and on. Things fell off the shelf. The stuff pasted on the walls of my treehouse office collapsed.
It’s time to stop whatever I’m doing. Shall I get dressed and get out? How serious is this? Oh dear… It seems serious. Underwear. Clothes. Cellphone. Passport. Wallet. My mind went right into survival mode.
Earthquakes in Japan always make headlines. Even before I’ve had a chance to check what’s happened, my cellphone is flooded with messages asking if I’m ok.
Thank you all very much for your concern. Really. I truly appreciate it. I’m fine. I assure you I am. Please don’t worry.
When I show up at work, the TV is on for the rest of the morning because we’re on tsunami alert. Japanese people are often described as resilient in the face of natural disasters – and resilient they are – but they’re also prepared. Somehow everyone just knows what to do and how to react. It’s methodological, logical and practical.
Later that day – I had a treat.
An excursion with my students to the park for the autumn ritual of momijigari. It was refreshing not to be in the office and classroom.
It was also almost impossible to take photos without my kids in it. The joys of teaching the selfie generation. But somehow, I managed to get one. And of course, my kids managed much more than I did – which included stepping on my nice shoes (and getting mud all over them), playing in the dirt and then proceeding to hug me (why oh why) as well as attempting to sell me a bunch of dead leaves (err… why would I pay you for that?).
“Do you have money?” she asked me in Japanese.
With kids, that question is always a trap.
“No,” I said.
“I don’t understand Japanese,” I said.
“Please give me 500 yen for this,” she said in English.
So much for me playing dumb. Oh, kids. There’s never a dull day in my line of work. Just what will we grown ups do if we didn’t have our kids to love?
The momijis were just wow. Brilliant. Bright. Red. My favourite colour. Mother Nature is one incredibly beautiful woman. If you never get to chance to see her momijis, you’re missing out. Big time.
But listen, if you ever come to Japan, please don’t go to bed naked. Do as I say, not as I do. Okay? And by the way, I can think of worse situations to be in when an earthquake happens. When you’re in the toilet in the middle of number two. Oh yes, it’s happened to me.
Mother Nature, Mother Nature. You are one scary woman. But I must say, your momijis are simply exquisite.