Unearthing Japan; A Brief Take on Japan Earthquakes


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JAPAN- MARCH 17 2011: Government officials walk down a recently cleared roadway in Kesennuma, where the earthquake spawned tsunami caused a massive fuel spill and fire further consuming the Japanese coastal town, famous for it's tuna fishing fleet Thursday March 17 2011. (Brian van der Brug/Los Angeles Times)

When we ask our Children, “For What Japan famous for?” then their replies include Samurai, ninja, sumo, technology and now even Naomi Osaka. Japan is famous for all these things. But don’t wonder if anyone writes “earthquakes” in the list. Yes, Japan has seen many quakes in the past few years. Even last week  Japan was in the news for the powerful quake. It jolted Japan’s northernmost main island of Hokkaido.

 This Japan earthquake buckled the roads. Knocked homes off their foundations. And this led to entire hillsides to collapse. Local media reported few deaths and some missing cases. Rescuers were rushing to unearth survivors and restore power. Just a few days back a deadly typhoon ‘Jebi’ hit the west of Japan. The report says at least 10 lives were gone. It was the strongest typhoon to hit the country in 25 years. It caused widespread damage and disruption.

Japan earthquake at Hokkaido island lead to several deaths and missings.
Japan earthquake at Hokkaido island lead to several deaths and missings.

Now the entire world is watching how the samurais will come back to their normal lives. Ju like they did in 2011. But even they came back who knows whether we would see another Japan earthquake in news. Why do so many earthquakes strike Japan? 

Geologically it’s earthquake-prone area. The Japanese archipelago is located in an area where several continental and oceanic plates meet. This is the cause of frequent earthquakes, volcanoes and hot springs across Japan. If it occurs below or close to the ocean, they may trigger tidal waves leading tsunamis.

Majority of Japan have experienced devastating earthquakes and tidal waves in the past. Starting from The Great Kanto Earthquake, the worst in Japanese history, hit the Kanto plain around Tokyo in 1923 and resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people to the March 11, 2011, recorded strongest ever earthquake in Japan which triggered a massive tsunami along the Pacific Coast of northeastern Japan. This Great East Japan Earthquake, particularly the ensuing tsunami killed nearly 20,000 people and caused a nuclear accident at a power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

Plate tectonics provides that the earth’s crust rests on various plates and these plates constantly moves due to the magma inside the earth. The rate of the movement of the plates is slow, almost not discernible. When these plates grind against each other or converge with each other that seismic energy is released.

Japan have got the Pacific plate and the Philippine plate to the east; and to the west, the North America plate and the Eurasian plate exists. And When the Philippine plate and the Pacific plate are heading towards the west, they are going underneath the other two plates and that is what is causing all the problems. This is just like pushing a big piece of furniture across a carpet, so eventually, pressure builds up and suddenly it will move.

 Earthquakes occur when pressure is exerted by one plate on the other. The Pacific coast of the Japanese archipelago is currently pushed upwards by the subducting Pacific and Philippine Sea Plates. This leads to very high earthquakes in the coastal area running from Hokkaido in the north to the south-eastern tip of Honshu, and outside Kyushu in the south.

Instead of cursing “phenomena of plate tectonics”, just recollect the ‘Preparedness’.  We have been studying from the primary classes which  includes survival kits with a flashlight, fire extinguishers, a radio, a first aid kit and enough food and water to last for a few days. Don’t place heavy objects in places where they could easily fall and cause injury. Learn about your areas and should have a proper knowledge of the designated evacuation area in your neighborhood.

Japan is one of the world’s most seismically active nations and accounts for around 20% of quakes worldwide of magnitude 6.0 or more. Large quakes often occurs here, so the only thing we have to do is keep ourselves safe and urge our residents to pay full attention to seismic activity and rainfall. Earthquakes are fearful but don’t forget the Shakespeare words “The best safety lies in fear.”


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