I just had an earthquake moment.

Earthquake moments are those times when you feel certain that the ground is shaking, the room is swaying. You stop whatever you are doing–reading, eating, showering–and look up and stare much like those antelope do whenever they know a predator is lurking in the bushes. Except that you are not on the Serengeti, you are in one of the most densely populated cities on earth. Running away from a hungry lion is one thing, fleeing the shuddering earth is another.

When we first moved to Tokyo over three years ago, we were told that “The Big One” could strike at any moment.

Be prepared,” our apartment agent warned, “or you die.” OK, she said “or else” but really she meant “or else you die.”

I have a backpack packed with bottled water, chocolate, crackers, nuts, dried fruit, toilet paper, a flashlight, a deck of cards, a box of matches, fifty Yen dollar coins and a bottle of scotch. Because when are you going to need a drink more than when you’ve just survived “The Big One.”