Mega-quake March 2011, Tohoku, Japan.

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By Siti Noor Aliza Apandi

28 June 2023

Japan is one of the most industrial leaders in the world, with the most advanced
technologies. Despite the stable country, Japan is no stranger to earthquakes occurrences
because of the country location is along the Pacific Ring of Fire which earthquake and volcanic
eruption frequently happen. The ring is consist with several tectonic plates that can mash and
collide anytime (Chow, 2016). Japan recorded 5000 minor earthquakes annually; most of them
are unnoticeable, with 50 percent of the events are between 3.0 to 3.9 magnitude. However,
more than 150 earthquakes with magnitude higher than five can put the Japanese in jeopardy
(Yvonne, 2020). There is no other country that more prepared to face the earthquake than Japan.
Preparedness is a normal part of Japanese daily life as the earthquake is one of the most
unpredictable events compare to other natural disasters (The Geological Society, 2021). On
11th March 2011, Japan suffered a destructive mega-quake which provoke massive tsunami. The
tsunami covered almost 600 km² along the northwest coastline in Japan. The magnitude-9.0
quake (Figure 1) was the largest recorded earthquake in the history (Zaré & Afrouz, 2012) The Great East Japan Earthquake damage and the following Tohoku Tsunami were highest damage ratio ever
been recorded, where approximately 15,800 deaths, 6100 injured, and 2500 missing, and
220,000 evacuees (Strusińska-Correia, 2017). The great earthquake form by the sudden shifting
of the pacific plates from the stress build-up of the solid rocks and cracks underneath Japan,
which create the massive tremor. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
reported the mega-quake had tilted the world 17 cm on-axis, increased the earth rotation, which
has shorten earth’s day by 1.8 microseconds (Lovett, 2011). Japan has learned from the past
earthquake occurrences and put countermeasures to reduce the earthquake’s impact in the

Figure 1 The Tohoku Earthquake magnitude 9.0 has destroyed most of the building on at Tohoku shoreline. Source: Britannica encyclopedia

Planning earthquake resistant construction.

To withstand an earthquake, a building as shown in the Figure 2 is necessary to resist the push forces in a horizontal direction. Clear understanding of the mechanism, is a core in planning and designing an earthquake resistant construction (Sato et al., 2012).

Figure 2 Force applied to the building

Phone updates

Every phone that purchased in Japan is set the user will receiving the earthquake
warning signal from the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA), that some natural
disaster on the way. The JMA is first launched on October 1st, 2007, it provides the
service for provision through a media outlet such as TV and radio.

Figure 3 The earthquake Early Warning System provides advance announcement of the estimated seismic intensities and expected arrival time of principal motion.

Based on the Figure 2, the Earthquake Early Warning is aimed at mitigating earthquake￾related damage by allowing countermeasures such as promptly slowing down trains, controlling elevators to avoid danger and enabling people to quickly protect themselves various environments (Japan Meterology Agency, 2007).


Japanese divided their warning system into two parts: real-time seismology (RTS) and real-time earthquake engineering (RTEE). RTS and RTEE is different from
one and another, where the RTS is gave the public and first responders information on “rational action after the earthquake has terminated” while RTEE is for immediate
response after the earthquake occurred or earthquake motion arrival (Nakamura & Saita, 2007). Furthermore, RTS is specifically aim for “highly accurate but not immediate information” while RTEE needs an immediate alarm and intervention to avoid the disasters happened for second time.

Figure 4: Early Earthquake Detection System for Shinkansen. Source: (Hiraoka, 2011).

The Early Detection System (EEDS), shown in figure 3, was the result of the investment toward the fastest early detection warning system in the P-waves. When the GEJE
struck Japan, there were 239 seismometers in the EEDS. The process took 8.6 seconds to provide the warning time (Edwards et al., 2015).


In conclusion, the frequent event of an earthquake in Japan has made Japan the most prepared country for the natural disaster. Based on past experiences, the Japanese sharing their knowledge on how to be prepare and mitigate the earthquake to other parts of the world who have the same situation. On the other hand, there are various ongoing projects regarding improving the technologies on detecting the early warning of the earthquake.

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