I had been in the throes of an early morning dream when a strange jingle erupted from my phone, which had somehow wound up under my pillow. Groggy and bleary-eyed in a state of half-sleep, I picked up my phone to turn off what I thought must have been an alarm I accidentally set. Just as I was hitting the home button, the words “Emergency Alert” registered.
It took a moment for them to actually punch through my brain-fog, by which time I had already cleared the alert from my screen without actually reading it. Despite owning multiple devices, I am somewhat technologically challenged and didn’t realize I could pull up the notification again with just a swipe of my thumb. Normally I would be embarrassed by that, but I just blame it on my momentary panic. I texted a friend, who I knew would have seen it, to get the low down.
Our not-so-friendly neighbor, North Korea, had launched a missile towards Japan. I don’t own a TV, but a screenshot sent by my friend confirmed that our prefecture was in the predicted “Target Zone”.
Amidst a storm of facebook messages among the other foreign teachers in my city, the adrenaline was going strong. I got out of bed and thought to myself, “Well, if it’s gonna strike here, there’s not much I can do. But I guess first-things-first, I should probably put some clothes on?”
So as I’m skirting around the apartment trying to remember what constitutes proper clothing, I was making a mental checklist of all the things I should throw into a bag in case I needed to evacuate. Where would I evacuate to, anyway? The closest “evacuation spot” is the school, which is across the street, but are there underground shelters for these events? Somewhere in there I sent a message to my friend and former coworker, who is Japanese, on the hope that she would have some wisdom to bestow upon me in this situation. She called me back, and while it turned out she was equally as concerned and confused, it was calming to talk to another person in that moment.
Then another alert came in, stating that the missile had passed over Japan. As quickly as the threat had materialized, it faded. I just kind of stood in my apartment for a minute processing the information. Then, thoroughly awake, I got ready for work and then sad on my couch for a while because it was an hour earlier than usual.
Of course, none of this is incredibly surprising. NK has been testing missiles and talking sh*t for a long time. Long before I came to Japan, heck, before I was even alive! For all the hot air the NK government blows around, I doubt it’s in their best interests to go attacking anyone. But that doesn’t change the fact that “Hey, a missile has been launched at you, please seek shelter” are quite startling words to read first thing in the morning. On the bright side, I didn’t need to brew any coffee.
Despite the interesting start, the day has continued as usual. I taught some classes, ate curry for lunch, and am about to join the kids for souji. I’ll go grocery shopping after school, and might even get my lazy butt to the gym. In a nearby distant land, someone may be throwing a tantrum and making threats. Here, life goes on. Though I think I’ll finally put that emergency go-bag together as soon as I get home…just in case.