Japan: “The Fear of Magnitude 0″

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

In the wake of the magnitude 9.0 earthquake which hit Japan, changing forever the lives of so many people, popular writer Keiya Mizuno (水野敬也) decided to use words as a means to react to the event and reflect on the meaning of life.
In a post titled The Fear of Magnitude 0 published on his personal blog, the author of ironic books such as Yume wo Kanaeru Zoh highlights the importance of memory and the value of remembering lessons learnt from such tragedies even after these may have, for some, tended to sink back into oblivion.

Take as a given, by Reading Circle. CC license.

The following post was translated in its entirety with the author's consent.
The fear of magnitude 0
Straight after the major earthquake, I was about to write an article on my blog
But I couldn’t
Title of the article was
‘Emergency theory’

The day the earthquake hit
phone lines in Tokyo went down and text messages couldn’t be received
On top of that, the nuclear plants in Fukushima exploded and rumors spread of radiation reaching Tokyo
and so
People stopped going to work and stayed at home
and more and more people started to flee to Kansai


actually at this point in time
there was something absolutely crucial that men in Tokyo should’ve done
That was
To dash to the side of the woman you love

I was dumped once because at the time, I didn’t understand the true meaning of this act

The girl I was dating was having some trouble at work and was feeling down
I was really stressed too because of work
Just then, a friend of mine was going on a trip to Korea for a few days
And luckily, I managed to get those days off work
I went to Korea
at the time I thought
I’m too stressed out
if I don’t take a break now, I won’t be able to help her anyway

But when I got back, the first thing she said to me was
‘I wanna break up with you’’
Thinking she was upset because I was the only one having fun
I desperately started making excuses
‘Oh, I didn’t plan anything before I left so we ended up in a random Korean BBQ place! I mean the meat there – you gotta chew and chew before you can swallow! It’s like rubber I tell you, rubber!’

But that wasn’t the reason she was angry

She said

‘Someone who leaves your side when you need them the most
Surely will not be there for you in the future either’
And then, the trust that once existed, disappeared forever

This experience made me realize something

Girls are beings that need someone by their side when they’re troubled
and there is nothing logical about it
all they need is to be ‘physically close’

So when Tokyo came to a halt for a few days
the act of ‘dashing to the side of the woman you love’
would’ve been a razzle-dazzle move to get the attention of the woman you love
And for people that have a wife or partner
‘At the time of the earthquake, that guy did this for me’
Would’ve built a strong foundation of trust that would last for decades to come

…but, I couldn’t write this article

As the news revealed one by one, the damages caused by this massive earthquake which was so huge
I felt like this article, which in a way tries to turn a negative situation into something positive, would be offensive to a lot of people


If I had posted this article at the time
it might’ve been able to change the lives of a few guys
Yea, I do think it would’ve been improper and wrong to post this one week ago
But at the same time
communicating ‘specific ways’ to make someone’s life better
is also one of my reasons for living

So I want to write here, what can only be written ‘now’

11th March
We experienced something we’ve never seen before
It was not only for the people in the North
But even for me in Tokyo
Something for the first time in my entire life

The thought that ‘I might die’ crossed my mind for the first time with the big tremor of the earthquake
We experienced the halt of transportation systems and shut down of phone lines
rice, toilet paper, battery, gasoline were all sold out and our ordinary life quickly crumbled beneath our feet
For days and nights after, Tokyo continued to be shaken by aftershocks
This earthquake, even for the people in Tokyo
must’ve been the closest they’ve come to ‘death’


3 months from now, no, in less than a month
we will be struck again

This time, it won’t be as intense as this disaster

The complete opposite actually – a gentle wave
But in some cases
it’s powerful enough to make the living, a living-dead
The name of this wave


‘Ordinary life’

We will
Forget that one day we shall die
And the fact that ‘death’ will come suddenly
We will be engulfed in a wave called ‘ordinary life’

If there was a way to prevent it
the only way would be to make use of ‘now’

‘Am I happy with my life now’
‘You only live once. Is there anything left undone’
‘Is there anything I haven’t done that I would regret’
These ‘ordinary’ words held no meaning in our usual lives until now


Because the current situation is not ordinary, these words have huge meaning
What we need to do now, is to ‘use’ this unprecedented disaster
To re-examine ‘life’

But we must hurry
Yesterday, people filled the streets of Shibuya, and although their lights were dimmed, shops opened as usual
It’s a sight that people had long been waiting for
But at the same time, it felt like they’d started to forget that feeling of urgency that was felt after 11th March

So for now, please turn off your TV, showing repeats of the same news and broadcasting the usual programs
What you need to be looking at now – is ‘yourself’

…and 1 month from now, 3 months from now
please remember and think again about the victims of this crisis
By that time, the news may have forgotten about them
But for us living in Tokyo
there may be even more things we can do for the people in the North

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

Translation by Rino Yamamoto.


  • “The name of this wave / Is… / ‘Ordinary life’”

    Wow. This is such an amazing article. Thank you Scilla and Rino!

  • Paulette

    Thanks for posting and translating this article! It is beautiful and touching.
    I really appreciate it and will forward it around.

  • It’s indeed very depressing to hear the news on Japan. My brother-in-law and his family lives there and when I learned about the earthquake and tsunami there I was terrified and wanted to know if they are okay. Now it’s been months after that devastating event and people around the world seem to remember it as merely a trivial news. I like the way the author wrote this article where he says “it’s powerful enough to make the living, a living-dead…The name of this wave…Is…‘Ordinary life’”

    The world is filled with misery! I remember another blog that I read just recently entitled: Reflections on Optimism and Misery: The Quest for a Positive Place in the World (here’s the link http://yep.it/ccusel). I would like to quote from that article where it says “Hope is carried in the emblem on the flag that leads the optimists into the battle with misery.”

    Does life really have to be miserable? Or does misery have to be part of life? I do not know exactly but I find comfort that other people are optimistic about life.

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