Top 10 Natural Disasters in Japanese History

Japan is certainly one of those countries most affected by natural disasters and calamities. Some of the most expensive natural disasters have occurred in Japan, costing more than $181 billion for reforms and rebuilding, in the years 1995 and 2011. Japan has also been the site of ten of the worst natural disasters that have occurred during our own times in the 21st century. The country has suffered through many years of nature’s wrath upon them which has significantly affected the country’s growth, economy, development and also the social life of its citizens. The various types of natural disasters that strike Japan from time-to-time, include Tsunamis, floods, typhoons, earthquakes and the most horrid of them all, volcanic eruptions.

So, here we have ten of the most horrifying and perhaps most expensive natural disasters of all times, that have occurred in Japanese history.

10. Sakurajima Volcano, 1999



[alert-note] Disaster Type: Volcano | Year: 1999 | Place: Location Japan  [/alert-note]

This is one of the most active volcanoes among several others in Japan; the volcano was reported to have erupted more than 200 times in 1995, the most active of the four years, 1995-99. Eruptive activity at Sakurajima had been high in the months of October and early November in the year 1999. In a JMA issued Volcanic advisory no. 4 on Sakurajima on the afternoon of 10th December at 5:55, Fire columns as high as 100 m were witnessed, being accompanied by 116 times of volcanic lightning. According to the field inspections, ballistics scattered about 3 to 4 km away from the Minamidake crater by this eruption. Fire column as higher as 300 m together with 6 times of volcanic lightning was also observed at 5:54, on December 24th. These eruptions not only cause pollution and volcanic quakes at times, they even disorient the social life of the inhabitants in the area. The volcano is predicted to have a major eruption in the near future and hence is observed day and night and is kept watchful eyes upon by experts.

9. Mount Uzen, 1792

[alert-note] Disaster Type: Volcano | Year: 1792 | Location: Kyushu Island Japan  [/alert-note]

Mount Uzen is one of the active volcanic groups of several overlapping stratovolcanoes, near the city of Shimbara, Nagasaki Prefecture, on the island of Kyushu, Japan’s southernmost main island. In the year, 1792, the collapse of one of its several lava domes triggered one of the deadliest megatsunami that wiped out over 15000 people in Japan’s worst-ever-volcanic-related disaster. The volcano was active from the 1990-95 in the latest and a large eruption in 1991 generated a pyroclastic flow that killed around 43 people, including three volcanologists.

8. Miyagi earthquake, 2005

MIyagi earthquake japan natural disaster 2005


[alert-note] Disaster Type: Earthqake | Year: 2005 | Location: Honshu Island Japan  [/alert-note]

Miyagi earthquake was a powerful 7.2 rector quake that struck the east coast of the Japanese island of Honshu on 16th of August, 2005. It was almost mid-day, quarter to 12 to be exact when the quake had hit. The earthquake began on Tuesday and affected most of the northeastern coast. It triggered a tsunami warning and buildings 200 miles away in the capital, Tokyo felt the shock. Casualties of the quake included those killed because of a pool roof collapse in Sendai city, Miyagi Prefecture. The quake caused building collapses and power outages in large regions of the area, around seventeen thousand people lost power at the time. The Miyagi earthquake was considered to be one of the least powerful quakes that had hit Japan and not the one that scientists had predicted would hit Japan in the coming 30 years time.

7.  Sea of Japan, 1983

earthquake sea of japan tsunami


[alert-note] Disaster Type: Earthquake | Year: 1983 | Location: Akita Prefecture Japan  [/alert-note]

The 1983, Sea of Japan earthquake or often referred to as the Nihonkai-Chubu earthquake occurred on May 26, at 11:59 JST about 100 km west of the coast of Noshiro in Akita Prefecture, Japan. The quake lasted for about 60 seconds measuring a 7.8 on the moment magnitude scale, which resulted in tsunami waves up to 10 meters high, killing about a 100 people. The tsunami struck communities along the coast, especially Aomori, Akita prefectures and the east coast of Noto Peninsula also hitting Okushiri Island, which was in fact the site of a more deadly tsunami, 10 years later. The earthquake damage caused the collapse of houses and a number of road and rail accidents across the area due to soil liquefaction.

6.  Hokkaidō earthquake, 1993

Hokkaidō earthquake, 1993

[alert-note] Disaster Type: Earthquake, Tsunami| Year: 1993 | Location: Hokkaidō Japan  [/alert-note]

With a magnitude of 7.7 on the moment magnitude scale, the 1993 southwest-off Hokkaido earthquake hit the Sea of Japan at 13:17 local time, on Monday, 12th July. The quake’s maximum felt intensity of VIII meant destructive according to the Mercalli intensity scale. The quake didn’t do as much harm on land as it did through sea; the tsunami waves that were triggered by the quake were surely some of the historic tsunami waves the world had ever seen, causing deaths on Hokkaido and all the way up to southwestern Russia, with a total of 230 fatalities. The island of Okushiri was hit the hardest by the tsunami, with over 165 casualties from the earthquake alone and records of large scale landslides across the area.

5.  Great Kantō earthquake, 1923

Great Kantō earthquake, 1923

[alert-note] Disaster Type: Earthquake, Tsunami| Year: 1923 | Location: Honshu Japan  [/alert-note]

The quake struck the Kantō Plain on the Japanese main island of Honshu at 11:58 AM JST, on Saturday, September 1st, 1923. The duration of the earthquake indicated by various accounts was between a whooping four to 10 minutes. This was perhaps the deadliest earthquake in Japanese history, and at that time was recorded as the most powerful earthquake that hit the region measuring at a magnitude of 7.9 which was however, surpassed later by a quake of magnitude 9.0. For a country that faces around 5000 recorded quakes every year, the Great Kantō earthquake was surely one that left a deep scar, as an estimated 200,000 people were killed and over half a million houses were destroyed by fire storms that were caused after the quake. The quake also gave rise to tsunami with waves up to 10 m (33 ft) in the Sangami Bay and Izu Islands region.

4.  Nankaidō earthquake, 1946

Nankaidō earthquake, 2005

[alert-note] Disaster Type: Earthquake, Tsunami| Year: 1946 | Location: Nankai Japan  [/alert-note]

On 21 December, 1946 a catastrophic earthquake hit the southwest of Japan in the Nankai Trough measuring a whooping 8.4 on the moment magnitude scale. The time was exactly 4:20 local time and the quake was reported to be one of the Nankai’s mega-thrust earthquakes which are periodic quakes occurring  off the southern coast of Kii Peninsula and Shikoku, Japan every 100 to 150 years. The quake gave rise to enormous tsunami waves that washed away 1451 houses and caused over a 1500 deaths. The quake felt almost everywhere in the central and western parts of the country, making it one of the most powerful earthquakes ever to have occurred in Japan.

3. Tonankai earthquake, 1944

Japan Tonankai earthquake, 1944


[alert-note] Disaster Type: Earthquake, Tsunami| Year: 1944 | Location: Shima Peninsula Japan  [/alert-note]

The earthquake hit the Pacific coast of central Japan on 7th December, 1944, about 20 km off the Shima Peninsula in Japan, mainly striking coastal areas like Mie, Aichi and Shizuoka Prefectures. As the result of the ongoing Second War at the time, the news on the event was downplayed by the authorities in order to protect wartime morale, and as a result the full extent of the damage was never known. However, it was estimated that the quake had killed over 1300 people, the tsunami waves being the leading cause of the casualties.

2. Great Hanshin earthquake, 1995

Great Hanshin earthquake, 1995


[alert-note] Disaster Type: Earthquake, Tsunami| Year: 1995 | Location: Hyōgo Prefecture Japan  [/alert-note]

The Great Hanshin earthquake or better known as the devastating Kobe earthquake occurred on a Tuesday, Jan 17th, 1995 at quarter to six JST in the south of Hyōgo Prefecture, Japan. The quake lasted for twenty seconds destroying 150,000 buildings, the collapse of about a kilometer of the Hanshin Expressway and also causing the destruction of 120 of the 150 quays in the port of Kobe, and fires which raged over a large portion of the city due to uncontrolled gas leakages around the city. The quake was measured at 6.8 on the moment magnitude scale (UGCS) and Mj 7.3 on the JMA magnitude scale. Casualties resulted from the quake were over a 6000 dead people, with more than 300,000 injured or made homeless.

1. Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, 2011

Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, 2011

[alert-note] Disaster Type: Earthquake, Tsunami| Year: 2011 | Location: Tōhoku Japan  [/alert-note]

Often referred to in Japan, as the Great East Japan Earthquake, the Tōhoku quake was one that surpassed the record of the Great Kantō quake of 1923 in magnitude and destruction measuring a 9.0 in the moment magnitude scale and killing thousands of people across Japan! The quake was an undersea mega-thrust earthquake off the coast of Japan that occurred at 14:46 JST on Friday, 11th of March, 2011. It was the most powerful earthquake ever to hit Japan and the fifth most powerful quake in the world since the beginning of modern record keeping. The epicenter of the quake was approximately 43 miles east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku and the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 19 miles. The quake triggered powerful tsunami waves that reached heights of up to 40.5 meters in Miyako in Tōhoku Iwate Prefecture. The quake was certainly the costliest natural disaster in world history, as the World Bank’s estimated total economic cost for the disaster was at US$235 billion.

FINAL CONCLUSION: Japan is a country surrounded by sea at all sides and even a not-so-dangerous earthquake that occurs on land could give rise to a very dangerous tsunami in the sea and that could wipe out a whole lot of property and human life on land. Almost 20% of the world’s earthquakes and such seismic activities are said to be concentrated on this small part of the world where Japan is located. Even if we look at the history, two out of the five most expensive natural disasters have occurred in Japan. The government of Japan has definitely prepared themselves for the worse with the help of their experience in the past, but who are we kidding, it is Mother Nature they’re up against and she is just furious at this piece of land it seems. May God bless this small piece of land and its people.

3 thoughts on “Top 10 Natural Disasters in Japanese History”

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