Shaking Things Up in Tokyo

October 20, 2005
OK, I have to admit that my beat isn't quite as risky as covering the war in Iraq, but we auto scribes often have to put up with more than just bad food and slow cars. Or so I was reminded while pulling together the day's report from the Tokyo Motor Show as a temblor measuring 6.2 on the Richter scale rolled through Tokyo.

Now, living in Detroit, one is not used to feeling the earth move very often. So it took a couple seconds to grasp what was happening up on the 16th floor of the ANA Roppongi Hotel. Once I did, I dove into the bathroom door jam to ride things out, recalling the quake that nearly destroyed the city of Kobe and wondering if my hotel would do an impression of the World Trade Center's final moments. The alarm went off advising us - in bent English - that the hotel was designed to take this sort of thing. Small reassurance, but I'm still not sure it made things seem any better. The quake started out with a sort of jittering motion at first, sort of like riding in a really bad old diesel pickup. Then that pogoing stopped and we swayed for another minute or two, the pendulum effect of the hotel's anti-earthquake technology. By then, the alarm had gone silent and all I could hear was the creaking and groaning of the pipes in the ceiling, which gave me something else to worry about: the idea that they'd burst at any moment. Eventually, it all faded away and I sat back at the keyboard and got back to work.

Locals didn't even seem to notice. From my window, I could see folks strolling around, even as the ground below them rocked and rolled. Traffic on the elevated highway nearby continued moving, oblivious of what could happen should a single pillar give way. "Oh, that," said a local tour guide when I asked her about the temblor, "it's nothing. We had one nearly as big on Sunday." Maybe she should be covering Iraq. Me? I'll be happy to get home this weekend. The snows blow pretty hard in Detroit, but at least the ground doesn't move.

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