Video of the huge 9.0 earthquake in Japan in 2011

The Japanese below the film reads “Great East Japan Earthquake.”  That’s one of the names for the huge quake that hit in 2011 and caused the horrific tsunami.  And the time stamp on the video confirms it’s from the moment the big quake hit.

You don’t really need to understand the audio.  It’s interesting to watch the seismometer at the bottom of the film, which is paired up perfectly with the video.

About two minutes in, the ground starts to split, and you’re literally watch the earth, live, rip itself apart. It looks like a Hollywood movie.

About 5 minutes in there’s another scene of people in a lecture hall, and you watch the seismometer on the bottom, seeing that the quake is about to hit, but they don’t know it. It’s mesmerizing.

The other interesting thing to note is that while everything is thrown around like crazy, the buildings for the most part don’t fall down. Rather amazing engineering involved here.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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  • TuxedoCartman

    I think this YouTube video is required viewing for people to understand me when I say, “The ground did not stop moving!” It shows the frequency, intensity, and location of all earthquakes in Japan in 2011, as well as the frequency of quakes over 3.0 and 5.0.

  • TuxedoCartman

    I would much, MUCH rather deal with earthquakes than tornadoes! I’ve lived in Kansas City, I’ve lived in Tokyo… yes, earthquake please!

  • LOL Damn right John!

  • I think it depends on whether they are slip faults or rolling ones.

  • I don’t know Tor, tornado’s are terrifying—that green color and the ozone smell. I spent part of my childhood in a root cellar.

  • Are you one of those people who can hear them coming? I can and wondered if others can.

  • Couldn’t agree more Tux. I spent many years living in Japan and completely agree with the statement: “No other country like it. “

  • What powerful images. I was in SF during the Loma Prieta quake in 89. I was filling up at a gas station at Castro and Market when the canopy above the car started flapping like a manta ray. I took off went around the corner and was narrowly missed by a falling chimney. Later that night, SF was dark and I could see the the city burning below from my terrace. There was a blood red moon that night. Many of us on the hill took in folks from below.

  • Tor

    I’ve never experienced a tornado or hurricane, but I think earth quakes are less scary. At least the little jigglers are.

  • Cletus

    You do know that California has some of, if not the most comprehensive earthquake building codes in the world, don’t you?

  • ComradeRutherford

    We can’t have earth-quake-resistant buildings in the USA because regulations interfere with profits. It is far better that real estate developers make more profit, even if it means millions of people will die in the next big earthquake. Intentionally killing millions of people because it makes a profit is a cornerstone of Republican philosophy.

  • waguy

    For me it’s the opposite – I’ve felt quite a few: at least 3 in Seattle, 1 in Anchorage (for that one, I was lying in my hotel bed, wide awake at 3am, wondering why I couldn’t sleep. Then there was this sudden wham! I thought a plane had smashed into the building, until I realized it was still shaking. After a mild aftershock, I fell right asleep :-). I’ve felt several in CA – San Francisco, Long Beach, and Ontario. Just missed a strong one – our plane was climbing out of LAX when we heard from ATC that the glass in the Burbank Air Traffic Control Tower had blown out.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    I have a sister-in-law who reliably suffers from insomnia for three days before an earthquake. She’s batting 1000 and doesn’t know why.

  • Cletus

    I used to live in Walnut Creek, just east of San Francisco, at the base of Mt Diablo. Experienced my first quake within twelve hours of moving there, and about six more in the five years I was there. The worst came while I was on a conference call in a windowless room in the center of the building. You could really sense the room moving in lazy circles. It was the day I realized that Mt Diablo was being bumped around just as bad as I was that I decided it was time to leave.

    One of the first things I did when I bought a house here in Richmond VA was get earthquake insurance, because no place is immune, and it was cheap enough. When the big one struck (5.8) in 2011, I was pretty happy with myself, but thankfully didn’t need to collect. Was pissed, though, that I was driving down the highway when it hit and didn’t know anything was going on until I pulled into an office park and, strangely, all the offices seemed to be holding a fire drill at the same time ;-)

  • I read something the other day suggesting that perhaps animals are hearing some sound that’s outside of our hearing range. And that would make sense, the ground is beginning to do something subtly that we don’t notice, but it makes a sound animals can hear. Or they’re pet psychics :)

  • I never thought of that, but you’re right, probably every tremor had people thinking another big one was about to hit. Probably very hard to sleep I’d imagine.

  • I don’t think I’ve ever felt one. We had one in Chicago a few years back, but alas, I was here in DC. I also almost was in LA for the big one they had in like 93 or 95 or so – the one that collapsed the freeway. But last minute had to cancel my trip, my friend I was going with scratched his cornea so we ended up in the emergency room when the flight took off. I know it sounds odd, but I think it’d be interesting to at least feel what an earthquake feels like. Having said that, I’ve been through too many tornadoes, and whenever anyone says they wish they could experience one, I quickly correct them :) Though, admittedly, the green sky that heralds a possible tornado, that midwesterners know all too well, is pretty cool.

  • Mock not the fluffy dog.

  • emjayay

    John, thanks for posting the occassional interesting off topic video like this one. OK, the adorable fluffy little white dog ones may be a bit excessive.

  • emjayay

    I was under my car changing the oil in the driveway. Fortunately, it was on ramps, not jack stands. I scooted out soon enough to look up the street and see the ground and houses visibly waving. The very sensitive collie type dog, not noticing anything until the actual shaking, took off up the street. The house had diagonal cracks in the interior plaster walls (not wallboard) from the flexing. After that everyone wised up and bolted older unbolted houses to their foundations and screwed on plywood shear walls on the framwork of first floor garage spaces. And bolted tall bookcases to the wall, which is a really easy thing to do that some Japanese people seem to have missed.
    But the Loma Prieta earthquake was definitely a lot shorter and less severe than shown in this Japan video. Probably more similar to the 1906 one.
    One interesting but I suppose pretty typical reaction I’ve always had to earthquakes is that in the first couple of seconds without having time to really think about it my brain concludes it’s something more everyday, like that time I thought my housemate had just come home from work and was jiggling the car a bit.

  • TuxedoCartman

    What the video doesn’t show is that the tremors strong enough to be felt continued at a rate of about one every hour-and-a-half for the next week; several of which were pretty powerful in their own right (5.0 and up).. THAT was what destroyed my nerves during the whole ordeal: the fact that while in the middle of trying to monitor the reactor meltdown situation, and figure out whether to stay or evacuate, the ground never stopped moving beneath your feet for so long. Even two or three months after March 11th, Tokyo was still having daily tremors.

  • emjayay

    Actually of course in California there are detectable earthquakes all the time. If you define an earthquake as one people notice, it’s maybe one or two a year in San Francisco.

  • Dave of the Jungle

    I grew up in LA. Once I was sitting beside our built-in pool in the back yard and suddenly half the water in the pool came flying out. It was a trip. No one injured. Fun to observe the power of gigantic forces.

    20 years later, my wife went through the 1989 Loma Prieta Quake in Northern California. She was rattled pretty bad and still has difficulties with the memories. The BIG ONE is coming and will devastate infrastructure much more than people know. I won’t be there.

  • Tor

    Here in San Francisco we have a little “bump” now and then.
    I was sick in bed during the Loma Prieta quake of ’89. The shaking started and continued, and went on and continued….I heard things crashing in the other room, and I expected to take a “pancake ride” as the building collapsed. But it didn’t.

  • S_in_Tokyo

    What a strange time for a reminder. It brought a lot of things back. And yes, I’m still here in Tokyo.

  • patb2009

    be aware that after the Osaka earthquake within a year everything was running just fine.
    Here, despite better building design, the meltdown of 3 reactors will likely lead to massive human tragedy, 1000 times worse then what went on with the tsunami.

  • hollywoodstein

    I’ve lived in an area with not infrequent tremors, and so long as no one gets hurt I always enjoyed them. Some come with a rumble, some with a loud bang, and some with no sound at all. Especially fascinating is the way animals really do change their behavior before one happens. It got to where I could predict the onset at least 30 seconds ahead. Kind of reminds one of how insignificant we are and there are much larger forces at play.
    Having said that the above video is terrifying. Can you imagine being in that high rise apartment. Thank god the Japanese have the best building codes, because without the sliding foundations the death toll would have been very high.

  • FunMe

    I live in California, and I’ve never experienced earthquakes shaking that long. The good thing is that the earthquakes don’t happen a lot, or every year, like the hurricanes in Houston for example.

  • Mark_in_MN

    Amazing video. I live in a part of the world with almost no seismic activity. While I don’t want to experience anything close that earthquake, I still want to experience a light quake, just for the experience and a little more understanding of what they are like. What really amazes me is how long the shaking continues in so many of those clips.

  • TuxedoCartman

    I was in Tokyo during that time. Scary stuff, but I continue to be amazed to his day how stoically the Japanese people dealt with it all. No looting, no panicking, no hoarding. They even voluntarily cut back on electricity to deal with the loss of the power plants. No other country like it.

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