Stop, Cover, Hold

A poster shows what to do in case of an earthquakeJapan has a long and tumultuous affair with geological activity. Japan sits on many fault lines that meet under the country, meaning that Japan is one of the most geologically active places on earth. This may seem like more of a topic for geologists and other associated scientists, but the fact is that the history of earthquakes and tsunamis has become a part of Japanese culture. From the woodblock prints, to paintings, movies, and even the fact that the most commonly used word in English for tsunami is, well, tsunami, the presence of the geologic activity has interwoven itself into the Japanese psyche. It is an issue that has to be dealt with by the government, with building codes, and engineering feats that help mitigate the danger of earthquakes to buildings and people. One of the most interesting looks into the way it affects Japanese people, is of course not only the recent disaster, with thousands dead and missing, and destruction of whole towns, but also in literary works such as those by famed author Haruki Murakami. He even wrote a compilation of short stories dealing with the psychological impact of the Kobe earthquake in 1996. One of my favorite stories of his is one where a man meets a frog who convinces him to help prevent an impending earthquake by traveling deep into the earth to battle a giant worm who causes earthquakes. When different countries have to deal with certain aspects of where they sit in the world, writers tell us what that means to ordinary people. What is undeniable is that this geological activity has become interwoven into Japanese culture and society, as of course you just can’t ignore it.

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