At 10:55 a.m. on Saturday, February 5, 2011 I was working on the 23rd floor of a luxury hotel near Tokyo Station, overlooking the ImperialPalace, sitting in a straight-backed chair and feeling a little bored. So I said to Ms. Yano, the young Japanese woman sitting next to me, “Let’s play the jishin(earthquake) game like this,” then I wiggled and jerked around in my chair like a dune buggy barreling down the beach, driven by a maniac 12-year-old. Actually, that’s not the kind of behavior to earn one a good reputation. But Ms Yano is a fun girl, so she tried it, too. She didn’t bump around in her chair as convincingly as I did in mine, but she wiggled her bum in a way that was interesting to watch. And guess what! Just at that moment we had a realearthquake. No kidding. It was perfect timing. I could feel the shock wave in the floor and walls. And the definitive proof of it was that the large chandelier in the room - 2,500 kg of Czech crystal - was jingling, like wind chimes in your garden, or a Christmas decoration on a door that is being opened and shut with force.
Ms. Yano didn’t believe it was an earthquake.
Grant: Hey! It’s a real earthquake!
Yano: Really? Really? No!
She preferred to think that it might have been a strong gust of wind gently rocking the building. Or maybe the room’s heater, which we had just turned on, was blowing air strong enough to disturb the chandelier. But that’s ridiculous. The building is too massive to be affected by any gust of wind smaller than a typhoon of Biblical proportions. And, the heater doesn’t blow air that strong. And besides, I have experienced earthquakes while sitting in this hotel before, and I knew better. To confirm it we walked outside the room where we were sitting to see chandeliers in the corridor also swaying. (But not jingling. By the time we exited the room all the jingling had stopped.)
To any guests who come by I like to tell a story about the chandelier. It’s the second largest chandelier in the hotel (a chandelier’s “size”is measured by its weight, not by its physical proportions) and so the hotel staff like to show it off to visitors. It is Venetian glass and Czech crystal, made in the Czech Republicand imported to Japan. But I like to report that it is Venetian glass combined with crystal retrieved from fallen meteorites in the Himalayas and polished for seven years by Nepalese Buddhist monks, then assembled in the Czech Republic by virgins who belong to an ancient sisterhood of lamp-makers working at an isolated, all-female factory. The girls live on site and are raised from the age of 6 not by their families but by elder sisters in their sorority on a special diet of yoghurt, fruits and mineral water to accompany their apprenticeship.