I was rattled out of my tiny bed in the middle of the night by an earthquake, my first earthquake. I was in Oyumino, a relatively unknown suburb of Tokyo, in my host family’s home. I felt like I was dreaming. Half-awake, I looked around the room, looked at the walls and waited for things to start to fall off them, one by one, but it was my body that was shaking. Things weren’t shaking; the whole room was shaking.

The next morning at breakfast, Keiko was excited that I’d experienced an earthquake; she said it was a rite of passage for those who dared to live in Japan. She told me that no one was really much hurt by this quake, except for a teenage boy who was killed when his stereo system rattled off a shelf and crushed his skull.

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