Earthquake over. Everything ok.

It was a Shindo 4 by me (on the Japanese 1-7 earthquake scale). Shindo 5 at the epicenter in northern Saitama. Magnitude 5.6.

The iPhone helpfully said “Earthquake. Earthquake. Earthquake” in Japanese. Like, “duh.”

Some things fell over, but it passed quickly. I thought my monitors might fall over but they didn’t.

All over for now.


Lost old lady

As I was walking back from Shinkoiwa station tonight, when I got close to the intersection where my house is, I saw an old lady wander into the intersection, completely ignoring the signal, obviously lost, and watched as she started walking down the middle of the road! Fortunately there was no traffic at the time.

I didn’t want to startle her, so I hailed a passing woman on a bicycle and asked her to help.

She approached the woman, who thought she was in Nakasakai. She said she was 80, but she didn’t have any ID or a phone or anything.

We called the police, and waited for them to come. In the meanwhile I got her some cold water since she was obviously thirsty.

She could talk clearly, but except for her name she didn’t know anything about where she was supposed to be.

Finally the police came and helped her into the back seat of the police car and said they would try to find out who she is and get her back where she belongs.

This is the third time I’ve found a wandering lost old lady in my neighborhood and had to call the police since I moved to Shinkoiwa 7 years ago. Am I an old-lady-with-dementia magnet?

Anyway, I’m glad we got her out of the road and safe into the hands of the police.

Alert level raised for Mt. Hakone

The Japan Meteorological Agency has raised the eruption alert level for Mt. Hakone, which straddles the border between Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures, warning of a possible phreatic explosion.

The mountain’s alert warning was raised on Wednesday from Level 1, indicating a normal situation, to Level 2, which restricts access around the volcanic vent. It was the first Level 2 warning regarding the mountain since the five-level alert system was introduced in 2009.

On Tuesday, 116 volcanic earthquakes were observed, a record for one day. Three earthquakes that could be felt were confirmed, the first in four years.

Sadayuki Kitagawa, head of the agency’s volcanology division, said at a press conference Wednesday morning that the earthquake could have been caused by hot gas and other elements deep in the ground.

“This is obviously different from past situations. As hot water that has pooled in shallow areas has become unstable, there is a higher possibility of a phreatic explosion,” Kitagawa said in explanation of the raised alert level.

As of noon Thursday, 10 volcanic earthquakes had already been observed, and the agency continued calling for caution. Responding to the raised alert level, all services on the Hakone Ropeway were suspended between Sounzan and Togendai stations, which is inside the area covered by the evacuation directive. An about 1.2-kilometer prefectural road to a parking lot for Owakudani was closed to traffic.

Mt. Hakone’s last eruption is believed to have been sometime in the 12th or 13th century.

The town of Hakone has already prohibited entry to Owakudani and surrounding areas. The Hot Springs Research Institute of Kanagawa Prefecture explained that only the area surrounding Owakudani is expected to be affected at this stage. According to Prof. Setsuya Nakada, a volcanology expert at the University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute, “Even if [Mt. Hakone] does erupt, it will likely be on a smaller scale than that of last year’s eruption of Mt. Ontake.”

Volcanic earthquakes surge in Hakone

They just raised the Hakone volcano alert level from 1 to 2. Mt. Hakone is just 40 miles from Tokyo.

An earlier article from the Japan Times:

The number of volcanic earthquakes recorded in Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, surged Tuesday, with 98 recorded before 3 p.m. compared with 34 for all of Monday, the Meteorological Agency said.

The agency said it still believes the possibility that the Hakone volcano will erupt is low, and it is maintaining the alert level at 1 on the scale of 5. Level 1 means “normal.”

However, hot steam could suddenly be expelled from the ground in or near the popular Owakudani Valley, the agency warned, urging people not to enter areas designated as off-limits.

“Shallow hot-water activity in parts of the Owakudani Valley has become unstable,” the agency said in an advisory.

“There is a possibility that a minor ejection (of hot steam) may suddenly occur,” it said. “Please do not enter danger zones.”

The warning, which comes in the middle of the Golden Week spring holidays, is expected to affect tourism there as some 20 million people, including many foreign tourists, visit the scenic area on an annual basis. It is one of the country’s most famous hot-spring resorts.

Of the quakes Tuesday, two that shook the area between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. were strong enough to be felt. They registered level 1, or the lowest, on the Japanese intensity scale of 7, the agency said. The focus of both was about 10 km underground.

Local officials have barred visitors from entering recreational trails and hiking courses in the valley.

The number of volcanic quakes began to surge April 26, though only two were recorded last Friday.

However, 37 earthquakes were recorded Saturday, followed by 36 on Sunday and 34 on Monday.