Rugby World Cup diary: Our man in Japan recounts the moment an earthquake hit Springbok town

02 October 2019 - 08:40 By Liam Del Carme
A utility hole hatch featuring a Rugby World Cup 2019 design is seen on the street near Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka, Japan, on October 2 2019.
A utility hole hatch featuring a Rugby World Cup 2019 design is seen on the street near Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka, Japan, on October 2 2019.
Image: REUTERS/Issei Kato

They said Springbok tours are no longer rock ’n roll but clearly‚ there are still exceptions.

It’s been decades since I’ve been woken by that helpless feeling. The one where when you open your eyes the room seems to be rotating around you. It’s when you disown alcohol and close your eyes hoping for this amusement park swing to come to a halt.

The feeling I had in the early hours of the morning had a slight twist. At first it felt as if someone was shaking my bed. Quickly I realised it’s actually the building and then the wider realisation set in that this was an earthquake.

The shaking wasn’t violent. It was a side-to-side sway‚ but still deeply disconcerting. It’s dark‚ I can’t tell what is moving in the room and what’s not.

I look at the clock‚ just in case. It’s 02.15.

I didn’t want to think about it too much because there is only so much you can do. The hotel I’m in didn’t issue an evacuation order so presumably the shaking is more in the ballpark of tremor than earthquake.

Still it continued but I return my head to the pillow figuring this quake will gently rock me to sleep. Sometimes it’s just pointless stressing.

There would however have been much reason to get up in a state of panic. In the moment I didn’t know whether the epicentre of the quake was offshore, which of course would have triggered a tsunami.

There have been five seismic events in Japan since the start of the month. Hotels here are equipped with all measure of emergency and evacuation procedures.

Five kilometres away‚ the quake was also felt at the Springbok team’s hillside hotel where the carpets are as thick as the corridors are wide. All was fine there. No dropping chandeliers.

Media colleagues who opted for a hotel 1km inland have a designated assembly area should disaster strike in this town on the Pacific coast 230km southwest of Tokyo. It would have been odd to see the Bok bus pull up with occupants in pyjamas.

Shizuoka Prefecture in which Omaezaki is located has gentle hills and valleys but it holds terror at its core. The Shizuoka Prefecture is in an earthquake zone.

The bit that should really have concerned me if the epicentre was offshore‚ was the location of the adjacent Hamaoka nuclear power plant.

In fact‚ so prone is the area to quakes of high magnitude that former Prime Minister Naoto Kan ordered the shutdown of the facility in 2011. Scientists found there was an 87% likelihood of the area being hit by a magnitude 8 earthquake in the next 30 years.

The area lies on two tectonic plates and a major earthquake is apparently overdue. The government did not want a repeat of what happened in Fukushima where an earthquake and resultant tsunami devastated the area in 2011.

News surfaced in the morning that the quake registered 4.1 on the Richter scale. Not big‚ but big enough to quake in your boots.