When the 7.3-magnitude earthquake struck Japan on Friday, I was on the seventh floor of a Tokyo department store.

While I was contemplating buying some sumo-themed Christmas cards (which seems strangely appropriate now), a slight sway began underneath my feet. Having never experienced an earthquake before, I thought I was imagining things until the animated chatter among the staff.

The building shook violently for probably a few seconds, though it also seemed to roll with the movement as if it was on springs.

There was surprise on people's faces and a few nervous smiles, but no panic and definitely no screaming.


After a few moments of discussion, shoppers went back to their quest for the perfect gift and workers returned to their posts.

It seemed like an everyday event. "It was a five," said the girl behind the counter as I bought some sushi about an hour later. "Actually not so big."

Situated on one of the largest fault lines on the world, Japan has more earthquakes than almost any other country.

Most of its buildings, especially in the main cities, are designed to be quake-proof but awareness of the danger is constant and continual.

The epicentre of the earthquake, off the coast of Miyagi prefecture, was 10km beneath the seabed and 240km offshore.

The area was shaken by repeated, smaller aftershocks but there were no immediate reports of damage from the quake, or the tsunamis of 1m or less which followed.