Living in Earthquake Country Number 1

I’m a notorious over-thinker. A great worrier. I spent the past three to four years lying awake most nights, worrying about problems and things and how and where my life should go, and worrying about worrying. I suffered from chronic insomnia for a long time.

Some months ago, it stopped. I can actually go to sleep without tossing and turning now. In a country that is prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, and has the sword of Damocles, aka Fukushima, still hovering over it. How did that happen?

The video footage of March 11th, 2011, is still is engraved on my brain. I was in uni back then, living in a student hall, and after learning what happened and seeing the horrific pictures and videos on the internet, I cried by myself in my room for hours and was glued to my laptop for days in order not to miss any new information that came in.

After making the decision of moving to Japan last year, I had nightmares about running from gigantic tsunami waves or perishing slowly due to radiation. I woke up in terror each time, asking myself what the hell I was thinking moving into a death trap.

As paradoxical as it sounds, after actually moving to Japan, I never had those dreams again. I feel incredibly safe in Japan. Yes, I’m well aware that the longer I stay, the more likely it becomes statistically that I will experience a severe earthquake. I’ve only been in minor ones so far, ranging from magnitude 1 to 4. The kind that either makes you feel like getting dizzy in summer heat, or rocks the house like you’re on a ship, or the kind you just sleep through.

Following the updates about the (daily) earthquakes in Japan, it is clear that by living here, I’m participating in a game of Russian roulette. You never know which region is going to be affected next, but it’s only a matter of time until it’s your turn. Only yesterday, an earthquake with a 6.4 magnitude hit the South of Japan. Houses collapsed, people died.

It would only be logical for my worst case scenario brain to be worried about this topic constantly. But it doesn’t. Because I don’t let it anymore. I’ve made the choice not to live in fear about something I have no control over. Fear and worry ruin everything. Every good moment you’re having becomes tainted by it.

The truth is: Bad things happen everywhere. Every country is a different kind of death trap. Some countries have more guns lying around than inhabitants living in it, other countries are infamous for drug dealing and stabbing. Not to mention the terrorist attacks that happen all over the world. And even if this sounds weird, I’d rather die at the hands of nature than the hands of a despicable human being.

When I was looking at apartments in Japan with my German estate agent, who’s been living in Japan for 30 years, I asked him how he copes with the immanent threat of natural disasters. His simple – but to me very meaningful – answer was: “If something really bad happens – don’t be there.“ Which I interpret as: Let go of the things that are up to a higher force.

I’ve now surrendered to the idea that when bad things happen, I’ll either be there or I won’t, but I won’t waste my time worrying about it. Japan is wonderful in so many ways and I feel privileged to be here, every day.

And now, I’m off to sleep.




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