I’ve been living in Ichikawa City, on the outskirts of Tokyo, since January. It all feels a very long way from Berkeley, California: my neighbourhood here has a public address system, for example, which quietly reminds us at 4.30 every afternoon that the children are on their way home from school and we should try not to run them over, and half an hour later plays a thirty-second excerpt from the New World Symphony (arranged for organ). With the few minor earthquakes I’ve experienced in California, it’s often been hard to tell whether it‘s really a quake or just a heavy truck going past, and by the time I’ve shambled over to stand in a doorway the whole thing‘s already over, with no harm done except maybe a couple of broken plates. No one I know in Berkeley has a disaster kit or a disaster plan. The consensus seems to be that it probably won’t happen, and even if it does, as long as you’re not on the Bay Bridge you’ll be fine. There was no doubting what was happening when the earthquake struck here this afternoon.