The Earthquake is coming. The fear of the Big One and the search for salvation

My "baptism of fire" happened on 11 March 2011. I was in Japan, in Sendai, the main city in the Tohoku Region, about 500 km north of Tokyo. I had been living there for more than 6 months and I was caught unawares and ill prepared at the centre of one of the most devastating natural catastrophes to have occurred in recent years.So every time I hear talk about another possible earthquake, a tremor even more powerful than the quake that shook Japan four years ago, I enter a state of alert.

Reuters/Issei Kato

Not that there is much need for my vigilance. Often wherever you may find yourself in Japan you receive constant reminders: from informative pamphlets to anti-disaster kits given away free with subscriptions to daily newspapers to special maps on the streets. For every area of the city, or in the case of a metropolis such as Tokyo, for each single district, there is at least one point designated as a shelter in case of an earthquake.

Perceived as the most solid structures resistant to tremors, the shelters are utilized in the first phase after the main earthquake when the earth shakes due to the aftershocks. In most cases schools, gyms, universities and large parks are the locations selected to serve this purpose. In Tokyo there are more than 3 thousand of them.

Settling into any new environment in Japan, be it residential or for work or study purposes, involves the identification of the nearest shelter in case of evacuation.

Among the papers handed to me on my arrival in my new house was the pamphlet entitled "Earthquake: where will you be when it arrives?" For some days I stared at this and reflected on the question. Given that sometimes the alarm is raised without taking into account the opinion of the experts and that, as far as I understand, every method for predicting such events has its flaws, the risk that an earthquake will catch me unawares is high: consequently I do not sleep easy at night.

Recent concern began with the news that appeared in the Japanese media just over one week ago. On a beach in the locality of Ibaraki, a few hundred kilometres north of Tokyo, a pod of 160 dolphins beached one week ago on Saturday. The event caused some panic. "Is the 'Big One' coming?" someone asked on Twitter. Another user posted a photo of the dolphins with the caption "Let's get ready for the earthquake".

The connection between the behaviour of the animals and the arrival of an earthquake is yet to be certified scientifically, but the fact that the same phenomenon was observed one week before the earthquake in Tohoku in 2011 has provoked numerous discussions online and in some cases behaviour worthy of the end of the world.

One recurrent question has been "Will Gary Bonnell's predictions come true?" But who is Gary Bonnell?

Bonnell is a "Spiritual Teacher", author of books, a scholar of mysticism and a keen prognosticator of future events, in particular of earthquakes in Japan. His last book was called, "An Important Future: what the Japanese need to know to begin to change". Beneath the photo of the author is an invitation to Japanese readers. "The earthquake will arrive in 2015. We're almost there. Let's start to think about how we will experience that day".

Bonnell was apparently able to predict the earthquake in Hanshin in 1995 as well as the more recent one in Tohoku. He predicted an earthquake to occur on 12 April, a quake of such size as to produce level 7 aftershocks for the rest of the year in the area of Kanto, where Tokyo is located.

According to his followers Bonnell's prophetic skill is due to his supernatural ability to control the spirit. Bonnell has also created a company, Gary Bonnell Inc., with offices in Tokyo and a website exclusively in Japanese, through which he shares his paranormal knowledge.

Now, as far as the earthquake is concerned, we can do very little. It is well known that Japan is a country with an extremely high risk of seismic activity and it is equally well known that the country's buildings, apart from the oldest, have excellent standards of resistance even against powerful quakes.

Offers of salvation by an individual or organization in view of an imminent catastrophe, however, have been received with some suspicion. The sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway twenty years ago orchestrated by self-proclaimed messiah, Shoko Asahara, and his cohorts from the group Aum Shinrikyo provide both an example and a warning.


Translated by Nicholas Neiger

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