My Friends’ Account of Kyushu Earthquakes

The island of Kyushu is a good 1000 km away from Tokyo and the trouble there has so far no influence on us here in the Kanto area. However, I have a special relationship to Kyushu, since I studied at the University of Kyushu in Fukuoka for a year and two months with a scholarship from the Japanese Ministry of Education. I have come to love Kyushu a lot and the great time I had there was one of the factors for why I thought to want to live in Japan for a longer period of time.

I still have two close friends in Kyushu, one is living in Fukuoka, one is living in a town called Isahaya in Nagasaki prefecture. I am in frequent mail and also phone contact with them now.
Isahaya is only 85 km west of the epicentre of the quakes in Kumamoto, if with water in between, the Isahaya and Shimabara bays. Fukuoka lies 120 km north of Kumamoto.

My friend in Isahaya has two small children of 4 and 2, a boy and a girl. They are yet too young to understand what’s going on but were panicking and crying when the first quake hit out of the blue on Thursday evening local time. It shakes heftily in Isahaya, but so far there is no damage to houses or people. Funnily, I “fled” the great East Japan earthquake of 2011, commonly known here as 3/11 because it happened on the 11th of March, to Isahaya and stayed a week there with my friend, who was pregnant at the time.

My friend in Fukuoka has more trouble despite being farther away from Kumamoto. Also in Fukuoka there is no house or people damage yet, but… My friend has two boys of 12 and 10 years and those two know what’s going on. It shakes frequently all over Japan, but it’s the first bigger quakes experience for the two boys. While the older one plays it cool, the younger one is freaked out. There have been over 250 quakes since the first one on Thursday night, many of them big. On Friday night, the younger boy was sitting in the bathtub when it shook again more significantly. He panicked, jumped butt naked and dripping wet out of the tub and ran crying through the apartment looking for his mother. His older brother, still playing it cool, is now teasing him with that… the poor kid! My friend has her hands full with getting the boys under control.
Then, last night, there was a huge quake of more than 7 on the Richter scale at around 1:30 in the morning. My friend was still up and scared, but guess what, the two boys slept (thankfully) through that one!

So, even where there is no destruction, people are stressed, on edge, and kids get traumatized.
I dearly hope that things calm down quickly now in Kyushu so that people can start taking care of the damage and move back to normal, but alas, they are predicting some sort of spring storm for Kyushu tonight with heavy rains and high winds, what will make the situation for many much more miserable. I hope the storm is not getting too bad and that the shaking finally subsides and that Mt. Aso doesn’t freak now too. Mt. Aso is one of the many very active volcanoes of Japan. Even before the quake it was puffing along and you were not allowed to get within a mile of the crater. I’ve been at the crater during my student times, but got sick from the sulphur smell after five minutes and stumbled gasping down the mountain…
We truly are sitting on the Ring of Fire here, yes, we all know that, but nevertheless it’s hard when we get so many reminders of just how alive the Earth under our feet is, which, by the way, makes Japan also a very beautiful place. I hope my lovely Kyushu will calm down soon!