This article on how Japan prepares for earthquakes will elaborate on disaster preparedness of Japan as compared to other countries and lessons for all of us to emulate.

The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.”

– The Emperor of Japan, Hirohito

Japan’s Vs Other Nations

The proverb “a stitch in time saves nine” resonates deeply with Japan’s approach to disaster preparedness and risk reduction. Recent earthquake in Japan on 01 January 2024 resulted in 67 deaths, in contrast, an earthquake of near the same magnitude in Turkey on Feb 23 resulted in the loss of approximately 47,000 lives. .

Pacific Ring of FireWhy Japan has Many Earthquakes?

Pacific Ring of Fire is an area in the Pacific Ocean that looks like a horseshoe and hosts over 400 active volcanoes. This geographical hotspot extends from Australia to Russia including western coasts of North and South America. Japan is located across four tectonic plates comprising the Pacific plate, Okhotsk plate, Eurasian plate and Philippines sea plate along the Pacific Ring of Fire. Japan’s geographical location makes it very susceptible to earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and tsunamis However, Japan’s response in the face of natural disasters has been an example to follow for countries towards preparation of disaster management planning. The nation has endured immense hardship ranging from earthquakes and tsunamis to volcanic eruptions and typhoons. Yet, each tragedy has been met with a remarkable determination and spirit to rebuild and prepare better than before.

Seismic Data

The U.S. Geological Survey and International Tsunami Information Centre estimate that more than 80% of the world’s earthquakes and tsunamis occur within the Ring of Fire. Japan is hit by almost 1500 earthquakes annually. While a significant number of earthquakes are relatively minor, more severe ones also take place. Examining recent occurrences, in 2011, Tohoku experienced a substantial earthquake, followed by Kyushu in 2016, Hokkaido in 2018 and a recent one in Tokyo on January 1, 2024. Apart from earthquakes occurring at tectonic plate boundaries, Japan faces the potential for on-land quakes. Major urban centres like Tokyo, Yokohama, Niigata, Sendai and Matsumoto are prone to high risk as compared to others. 

Societal CultureHow Japan Prepares for Earthquakes

Societal culture towards disaster management can be assessed from their famous belief in the Japanese proverb Ishuku Gyoj? (Self-Help and Mutual Aid). This deeply ingrained principle emphasizes self-reliance and helping neighbours during disasters, fostering a strong sense of community. Regular disaster emergency drills are conducted to ensure readiness to respond in case of actual scenario.   Learning from past sufferings, Japan has become one of the world’s most disaster-ready societies. Important dates  demarcated towards different disaster management day to ensure ever ready society to face disaster are 

  • Disaster Prevention Day – National day on 01 September commemorates the Great Kant? Earthquake of 1923 and highlights the importance of earthquake preparedness. Various events and drills take place across the country, promoting awareness and education for the same.
  • Fire Prevention Day – 26 January is marked as Fire Prevention day which raises awareness about fire safety and prevention measures. Schools and communities conduct drills and educational activities to ensure everyone knows how to respond to fire emergencies.
  • Tsunami Preparedness Day – 05 November is marked as Tsunami preparedness day and focuses on tsunami preparedness, especially in coastal areas. Communities practice evacuation drills and learn about tsunami warning systems and safety measures.

At a young age, children are imparted knowledge related to earthquakes by numerous means to enhance their awareness about disaster management. 

  • Picture books and comics – Age-appropriate stories are imparted in an engaging way which includes disaster safety tips and linked scenarios.
  • School Curriculum – Earthquake preparedness is integrated into the school curriculum, which teaches children about tremors, safe zones and evacuation routes.
  • Mascots – Friendly mascots like Yasuke or Hikari along with catchy slogans and songs are used to convey important safety measures to kids.
  • Drills – School and community drills which simulate earthquake scenarios allows children to practice “Drop, Cover and Hold” procedures.

Earthquake Memorial Museum

In the aftermath of the 1995 Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake in Kobe, the city constructed the Earthquake Memorial Museum. Serving as both a remembrance site and an educational centre. It imparts knowledge on disaster prevention and survival. Japan’s commitment to safety extends beyond immediate response to long-term measures.

Japan Technological Measures For Earthquakes

Numerous measures have been implemented to enhance building stability through innovative technology including retrofitting of older buildings/ bridges to enhance overall structural integrity. 

Tokyo’s Water Discharge Tunnel, a remarkable engineering feat, prevents major flooding during natural disasters. Built beneath the city, it collects floodwaters caused by cyclones and tsunamis, redistributing them into the Edo River. This infrastructure safeguards against potential devastation and showcases Japan’s dedication to long-term disaster resilience.

Every smartphone in Japan is equipped with an earthquake and tsunami emergency alert system. Triggered seconds before disasters strike, this system provides crucial time for users to seek protection. The widespread implementation of such technology emphasizes Japan’s proactive approach to public safety. 

Japan’s efficient train network, dominated by bullet trains or shinkansen, incorporates earthquake sensors. In the event of seismic activity, these sensors freeze all moving trains, preventing accidents. This precautionary measure tested during the 2011 earthquake, ensured zero casualties on shinkansen.

Japan’s immediate response mechanisms contribute to public safety during seismic events. All Japanese TV channels switch to official earthquake coverage immediately after an earthquake. Citizens receive real-time information on the earthquake, tsunami warnings and safety instructions. This swift communication ensures that the population is well-informed and can take necessary precautions.

Japan’s Ongoing Commitment 

Japan hosted the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction in Sendai in 2015, where the Sendai Framework was adopted. This signifies the nation’s commitment to sharing its own expertise and experiences with the world.

In conclusion, Japan’s approach to disaster management is a powerful case study. One of Japan’s greatest strengths lies in its meticulous data collection and analysis following disasters. Every tremor, every gust of wind, every surge of water is meticulously studied leading to the development of ever-more sophisticated early warning systems, earthquake-resistant infrastructure and tsunami evacuation protocols. This data-driven approach has demonstrably saved lives and minimized damage. As the world faces an increasingly unpredictable future, Japan’s lessons teach us that even in the face of immense destruction, the human spirit can not only endure, but  can thrive and flourish.

This Article is written by Khezran

Khezran is an English Literature major and has been a freelance content writer for over 3 years now. She is a poetess and also works as a copywriter. She writes world news articles and excels in fashion and lifestyle writing.