Earthquake Story #1: The Magic, Vibrating Bed


As you might have heard, this morning the Salt Lake City area experienced a 5.7 earthquake, with several aftershocks. Fortunately, there does not seem to be too much damage or any casualties, but being in any kind of earthquake is disconcerting at the least.

I’ve been in a few of them and would like to share the stories, as they all have an element of humor. Today will be the first one, with the others to come in following days.

In 1986-87 I took a one-year sabbatical from the Boston Symphony. My sabbatical was divided roughly into thirds: Japan, New Zealand, and Australia. In each of those countries I had arranged guest teaching positions and performance engagements.

It made sense to start in Japan because the BSO had a concert tour that finished there. So at the end of the tour I waved goodbye as the bus pulled away from our hotel and headed to the airport. I, on the other hand, headed to the Musashino Conservatory of Music in Ekoda, a suburb of Tokyo, where I was engaged to be a guest professor.

The conservatory was (and still is) very well endowed, and had a lovely two-story apartment in the adjacent charming suburb of Sakuradai (Cherry Hill). As you all know, living space in Japan is at a premium, but the apartment I was given–for free–had three bedrooms, a living room, an ample kitchen, and a balcony. What luxury!


Because it was the end of the tour, I was pretty worn out, and so when I was taken to my new lodgings, the first thing I wanted to do was take a nap.

I lay down in my bed, and immediately it started shaking. Wow, I thought, this is incredible. A vibrating massage bed! These Japanese think of everything!

Screen Shot 2020-03-18 at 8.58.57 AM

After about 30 seconds, much to my dismay, the vibrating stopped. I got out of the bed and looked to see if there was somewhere to put money in to get it to start vibrating again. It was only after I examined the bed thoroughly that I said to myself, Boy are you an idiot. You’re in Japan, a major earthquake zone. That was an earthquake!

Fortunately, for the rest of our four months there, my magic massage bed didn’t repeat its trick.

For more fun reading, check out my website for books you might enjoy!

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