We interrupt this J-List update to bring you...a giant Earthquake! The 8.9 magnitude quake that hit around Sendai shook the J-List office 400 km to the south, and has made for a rather harrying day, as you can probably imagine. I've lived in Japan for nearly two decades and have generally been calm when it comes to having the ground shake moderately 1-2 times a week -- it's alarming at first, but you come to accept it, and the fact that Japanese construction standards are among the best in the world helps a lot psychologically. This was different: the ground started moving from side to side and cabinets started rattling, and it didn't stop for several minutes -- you should have seen my Star Wars figures dance as they fell to the bottom their cabinet. A long cement block wall outside J-List rose and fell like it was built on geletin. Overall, actual damage was light (one bottle of sake crashed to the floor at the liquor shop we run), and all J-List staff and their families are safe, but it was not something we want to live through again.
Japan is at its best during times of crisis like this. Exceptional construction standards coupled with well-developed emergency procedures really help people to know what to do during crises, and everyone in our neighborhood knows the specified evacuation center they should go to if they're separated from family (for us it's a park with a gymnasium nearby). Japanese are naturally good at organizing, and I'm sure they'll be able to rebound quickly, though we're very worried for people right now. The quake was a moment of glory for the Internet and also for Twitter, as information was passed freely and accurately a the speed of IP packets...even faster than the seismic waves themselves. The same can't be said of the traditional telephone and cell networks, which were completely useless in the aftermath of the quake, as everyone tried to contact loved ones but no one got through. The first thing I'm doing tonight is making Twitter accounts for my kids and wife so we can contact each other in an event like this.
We now return to the regularly scheduled J-List update (which was written and ready to go out before the quake hit).
Japan experienced a terrible earthquake today.