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  • Despite risk from the 'Big One,' are Shizuoka and the rest of Japan becoming complacent about earthquakes?

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Despite risk from the 'Big One,' are Shizuoka and the rest of Japan becoming complacent about earthquakes?

Source(s):  Japan Times Ltd., the

By Tomohiro Osaki


Shizuoka Prefecture lies along the Pacific coast of Tokai, a part of Honshu’s central Chubu region. The Tokai quake theory warns that a magnitude 8 temblor is likely to strike directly under Shizuoka and Suruga Bay, right on the doorstep of Mount Fuji, a volcano. It was proposed in 1976 by Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a junior University of Tokyo researcher who later became one of Japan’s top seismologists.


Shizuoka’s disaster prevention program, however, has a much longer history, dating back to the 1970s. From 1979 to 2017, the prefecture invested ¥2.4 trillion in efforts to — among other things — make schools, hospitals and other public facilities more quake-resistant, develop emergency transportation and implement measures to prevent mudslides. It also required builders to comply with more stringent seismic standards than designated by national law. In a testament to the seriousness with which Shizuoka residents take disaster prevention, 33.6 percent of the prefecture’s populace participated in its annual quake drills in fiscal 2017 — a turnout that dwarfed the national average of just 3.3 percent.


A biennial survey by Shizuoka Prefecture showed in 2017 that the percentage of residents “very interested” in the Nankai Trough or Tokai earthquakes stood at 36.1 percent, down sharply from 63.8 percent after the 2011 mega-quake. The ratio of those “not so interested,” meanwhile, rose to 8.1 percent, the highest in 20 years, the poll showed.


In what critics say is a manifestation of that mental shift, a plan is underway to move the Shizuoka Municipal Government’s Shimizu Ward Office and a flagship hospital in the coastal district to tsunami-prone areas. The plan, pushed by Shizuoka Mayor Nobuhiro Tanabe, has ignited a bitter war of words with Shizuoka Gov. Heita Kawakatsu, who reportedly slammed it as “insane.”


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  • Publication date 03 Jan 2020

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