Coming from the relatively stable, geologically speaking, UK, it was exciting to experience my first couple of earthquakes in Japan. In 1989, shortly after arriving in Tokyo, I was staying at a 'gaijin house' conveniently situated next to a main road! Being of flimsy construction, again compared to the brick / stone built houses of the UK that I was used to, the building would move whenever a relatively large vehicle passed. One evening it started to move all by itself! Once I'd ruled out excessive alcohol consumption, I realized that I was experiencing my first quake – It was great; perhaps I had drunk a beer or two! By the following week, or about 10 quakes later, I'd already tired of them. In fact, by then I was scared to death every time I couldn't hear a bus!
Probably because they're born of these geologically unstable volcanic islands with their inherent and recently very apparent dangers, the Japanese appear to nurture a calm acceptance of fate, though they do go to extreme lengths to try and control the wrath of nature. I remember reading in the mid-nineties that the construction industry annually pours twice as much concrete as the US, the value of which is greater than the British government's entire budget! I'm sure that most people dislike seeing concrete in otherwise beautiful settings, but it's quite shocking to see endless cliff walls and hillsides reinforced with waffle-like concrete, rivers banks set in concrete, not to mention massive concrete tetra-pods and other wave defying concrete edifices uglyfying the coast-line wherever you travel in Japan. Then the Great East Japan Disaster occurred and the point of it all became clear. Despite the unprecedented nature of the disaster, which lead to utter destruction in some areas and many thousands of deaths, some of these measures were effective to some degree; sea-walls bought minutes that allowed some people to escape tsunamis.
While cleaning-up after the 3/11 disaster, the construction industry will no doubt be pouring even more concrete in anticipation of the next inevitable disaster. Let's hope the accuracy of earthquake prediction technology and other disaster prevention measures get to the point where everyone is able to get to safety when the next one hits. Ganbare Nippon.