Day_206 : That Day in the Storm: A Family’s Harrowing Experience with the Isewan Typhoon (the worst typhoon disaster in Japan, 1959) (Anonymous)

On that day… “A big typhoon is coming,” my father declared, returning home early from work. “If it takes the worst possible path, we’ll be on the right side of the typhoon, so it’s going to be bad,” he said as he nailed wood to reinforce the window glass, preparing for the typhoon as we always did.

By just after 8 PM (?), we had finished dinner and were getting ready for the typhoon. “The wind is getting incredibly strong. The house might collapse,” he worried more than usual about the house falling apart and started to prepare. He stacked futons about a meter high in a U-shape in front of the dresser to create a bunker-like structure, and all five of us got inside.

My brother and I had packed our clothes in plastic bags and were wearing our backpacks. My father, preparing for the house to collapse, had a hammer hanging from his waist. My mother had a flashlight at her waist. The wind grew stronger, and when my father went around the house to check, he called me to help hold the windows.
“For the first time, I understood the ‘breath’ of a typhoon. As the typhoon ‘exhaled’—’Whooosh’—the window glass bulged outward, looking like it might shatter at any moment. Rather than holding it down, it felt more like we were pulling on the window muntins to prevent them from flying away, which was extremely difficult due to the ferocious wind.

“It’s no use. The house is going to collapse. Get under the futons,” he said, and I quickly returned to where my grandmother and brother were. Right after that, “What’s that noise?”… “It’s water!” my father exclaimed. At the front door, water began trickling in through the threshold, dribbling onto the earthen floor.
“We can’t stay in the house with the water. Let’s escape to Akiba Shrine at the back,” he decided.

As he lifted my bent-backed grandmother onto the top tier of the closet, my mother carried my first-grade brother on her back, and my father led me by the hand to the front door. When he opened the sliding door, the murky water reached up to his chest in an instant. “Oh!” was all he could say as he grabbed the post of the sliding door to support himself. The current swept me to the right; only my fingertips managed to cling to either his collar or shoulder blade. At that moment, I saw my mother and brother on the tatami at the front of the house, but I don’t remember anything from then until we got on the roof of the kitchen.

During this time, my mother and brother heard my repeated cries of “My hands are slipping! Help!” And at that same moment, the wooden fence outside the house washed past between my father and the post he was holding, and the muddy water rushed into the house. My father thought he had lost me when my hands slipped from his neck.

My father and I were likely pushed inside by the current. I’m not sure… From then on, my mother and brother only remember fragments. Unable to escape outside, we took refuge in the attic. As the water rose, the tatami mats began to float, and I saw the TV sinking into the water as we fled. The fear of that moment is unforgettable, my mother says. “Even though it was dark due to the power outage, something was still bright,” my father and I said as we clung to the pillars and crossbeams in the courtyard, trying not to float on the rising tatami. The kitchen wall was there, so the water reached the eaves of the roof, which were quite deep, but the force seemed a bit diminished. My father managed to get onto the roof first, holding onto the gutter and then pulling me up onto the roof.

When we crossed the roof, my foot slipped. It was a tin roof. “Don’t slip! Don’t fall! The sea is to the right,” my father’s loud voice I remember well. The stormy weather was intense; looking to the right, the water was a vast expanse, moving incredibly fast and shining brilliantly. I can’t forget the depth of the water and its swift flow.

My mother, carrying my brother, was also swept by the water while clinging to a post between the veranda and the courtyard. My brother recalled, “At that time, I was really uncomfortable squeezed between Kamo-san and our mother’s shoulders.” After seeing me on the roof, my mother managed to get there, clinging to something until my father pulled her up. My father told her to get on the roof too, but she said, “It’s okay. I’m fine here. I can’t go on.” I thought I heard my mother say she was going to die from that moment

on, and I kept screaming, “Help! Help!” but I don’t remember anything after that. Later, my father also pulled her onto the roof.

My father was breaking the tiles on the main roof with a hammer to create an opening to the attic. I don’t remember how I got there, but I found myself near my father on the tin roof, and he was tossing the broken tiles aside and digging into the dirt beneath them. Suddenly, the wind and rain stopped. Looking up, the sky was full of stars. I clearly remember that. Later, I learned that we had been in the eye of the typhoon. Eventually, our family of four entered the attic through this opening in the roof about the size of four tiles. When we got into the attic, I noticed my fingertips were muddy and slightly bleeding.

My father warned my brother, “Be careful with the thin ceiling boards. If you step through, there’s the sea below.” My brother and I sat on a thick beam in the attic and changed into dry underwear and clothes from our backpacks. We didn’t know how high the water would rise, and since the roof might float if the water reached the eaves, we were tied to the beam and utterly exhausted.

Our parents were worried about our grandmother, who was in the closet with the water up to her legs, and considered bringing her into the attic. At that moment, my grandmother reported, “It seems like the water has stopped!” In the middle of the night, the fire brigade came around to check on us. At that time, my parents couldn’t help but shout, “We’re okay. We’re in the attic!”

As dawn broke and the voices outside exclaimed, “The water has receded!” we also came down from the closet.
I am a fourth-grader. My brother is a first-grader.
This time, due to a curious fate, I had the chance to talk about the Isewan Typhoon for the first time in 50 years, remembering “that time” with my mother and brother. Our memories are all fragmented. The fear started “when the water trickled in,” and we can’t be sure about the passage of time or even how deep the water was—maybe about two meters. But it’s certain that all five of us survived.
“Carried by the water, pushed by the water, floating in the water, it was just good luck moment by moment.”
“It’s good that the kitchen roof didn’t get carried away. The four of us were saved because of this roof.”
These are the real feelings of my mother, brother, and me. I am grateful for this opportunity to share.

Acknowledgement: We are deeply grateful to the anonymous interviewee for sharing her harrowing experience. We strive to honor her precious time and valuable contribution.


Day_204 : The story of the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, which set the cities of Tokyo and Yokohama on fire

When an earthquake strikes, fires start simultaneously in many places. The combination of dispersed firefighters’ ability to extinguish fires, broken buildings and unusable roads, broken water supplies and water shortages, and congested roads with many cars makes it very difficult to extinguish fires. For these reasons, large-town fires are more likely to occur during earthquakes. This is especially true in wet areas like Japan, where buildings are mainly made of wood and fires can spread over them as they break down, causing more damage. In dry areas, many houses are made of brick or stone, which are often completely destroyed by earthquakes.

During the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, 320,000 houses, or about 62% of the houses in Tokyo, were burned down. There were 136 fires, 76 of which spread widely, burning as much as 44% of the city in three days. Almost all (95%) of the deaths were caused by fire. Almost the same proportion (63%) of houses burned down in Yokohama. History shows that every time there has been a major earthquake, there has also been a major fire. The basic measure against fires caused by earthquakes is to make the house earthquake-proof and prevent it from collapsing.



Day_201 : Ground conditions are a fundamental factor in determining the amplification of seismic motions at the ground surface and the magnitude of earthquake damage

The condition of the ground is an important factor in determining how strongly an earthquake will be felt. For example, in the 1891 Nobi earthquake (Japan), the 1923 Kanto earthquake (Japan), and the 1985 Mexico earthquake (Mexico), the softer the ground, the stronger the earthquake shaking. Especially in softer strata, seismic waves are slower, so the shaking is greater. This shaking is further intensified when the period of the strata coincides with the period of the earthquake or building. This is called resonance and is the cause of many building failures.

For example, in the 1891 Nobi Earthquake in Japan, most houses near the epicenter were destroyed, but the number of houses destroyed decreased as one moved farther away from the epicenter. At a distance of 50 km from the epicenter, few houses were broken in areas with hard ground, while many were broken in areas with soft ground; in the 1923 Kanto earthquake in Japan, few houses were broken on the Yamanote plateau in Tokyo, while many were broken in the Arakawa lowlands; in the 1985 Mexico earthquake, the collapse of tall buildings in particular was observed, but this was also caused by soft ground.

The destruction of homes by earthquakes has a major impact on human casualties, fires, and even society as a whole. Therefore, when considering earthquake countermeasures, it is very important to carefully examine the condition of the ground.

Source URL:https://dil.bosai.go.jp/workshop/2006workshop/gakusyukai19.html

Day_200 : High-Speed Tsunamis and Delayed Warnings: The Urgency of Evacuation during the 1896 Meiji Sanriku, 1933 Showa Sanriku, and 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunamis

Large tsunamis are caused by major earthquakes of magnitude 8 or greater. In particular, such earthquakes frequently occur along the Pacific coast of Hokkaido and Tohoku in Japan. The Sanriku coast in this region has a special shape called a “rias coast,” which is prone to tsunamis. In the 1896 Meiji Sanriku tsunami, the tsunami reached a height of 38 meters and killed about 22,000 people. Thirty-seven years later, in 1933, another major tsunami, the Showa Sanriku tsunami, struck the region, killing approximately 3,000 people. 2011’s Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami did not fully apply the lessons of the past, leaving approximately 18,000 people dead or missing.

The time between an earthquake and a tsunami reaching the coast is very short, from 5 to 10 minutes. Running to higher ground within this short time is almost the only way to protect yourself from a tsunami. The tsunami will reach the coast where it is the highest, and the tsunami will also reach the coast the fastest. Therefore, instead of waiting for information from the outside, it is important to have your own knowledge about tsunamis, understand your surroundings, and act on your own judgment.

Contents (in Japanese)
Source: URL:https://dil.bosai.go.jp/workshop/2006workshop/gakusyukai21.html

Day_87 : North and Central Americas – Mt. St.Helens and Mt.Pelee

1.Volcanic Disasters

North America
Mount St.Helens erupted in 1980. 57 people were dead.
St.Helens volcanic eruption was really huge. You can see this from the following video.


From environmental and sociological perspectives, the difference between the U.S. and Japan is the people’s and nature’s relationships. This case indicated that somehow. The people are living far from nature, on Mt.Helens. That is why the fatality number was not so large compared to the huge eruption. In Japan, people tend to live near and with nature. This is called “Satoyama” in Japanese. Other Asian countries are the same with Japan.
This will be discussed later.

Mount Pelee
St.Pierre City was destroyed completely in 1902 by Mt. Plee’s eruption.
The population of the city was approx. 28000; almost all were dead, only 2 survived. One of the only two survivors was in prison. The story can be seen from the following video.

2. Climate, meteorological, and hydrological disasters: Hurricanes

North America
In 1900, Galveston’s death toll was over 6,000
2005 Katrina, the death toll was over 1400, and the cost was $100 billion . UDS
In 1998, Mitch reported that 13,700 people were victimized in Honduras and 3,300 in Nicaragua
Hurricane Jeanne,  2800 were killed in Haiti

Disaster data, such as death toll, is sourced from the NIED DIL homepage.

Day_76 : 1995 Kobe Earthquake victims

The 1995 Kobe earthquake taught us a lot of lessons. Today I am going to give you the following two questions:.
1) Why were there so many early 20s victims?
2) Which floor is more dangerous, 1st or 2nd?

1) Please look at the following picture. You can see the victims’ age distribution. Females and elderlies are more likely to be victimized because of their lack of physical strength. However, why did so many people in their early 20s die? Yes, they were university students. There are many universities in Kobe. Students tended to be less rich. They tended to stay on the 1st floor in cheaper wooden apartments.

kobe victims age distributions

2) You already know the answer. Of course, the first floor is more dangerous, especially in a wooden house. 1981 is the year in which the Japanese government set the building code. So the buildings, apartments, etc. built after the year tended not to be destroyed by the earthquake, including the Kobe earthquake.


Photo: Dr.Takashi Inokuchi

We should learn the lessons from the disaster; this is the best thing we can do for the victims.


Day_196 : The Matsushiro Earthquake Center

The following is a reprint of a column I once wrote:

The Matsushiro Earthquake Center, nestled in the historic town of Matsushiro within Nagano Prefecture, represents a pivotal chapter in Japan’s approach to seismic research and disaster mitigation. Established in February 1967 under the auspices of the Japan Meteorological Agency’s Seismological Observatory, this institution was born out of a critical period marked by intense seismic activity. Between August 3, 1965, and April 17, 1966, the region experienced a staggering 6,780 seismic events, ranging from imperceptible tremors to significant quakes measuring intensity 5 and 4 on the Japanese scale. This unprecedented series of earthquakes not only posed a major societal challenge but also catalyzed the center’s founding.

The initiative to establish the center was strongly influenced by the then-mayor of Matsushiro, Nakamura, who famously prioritized the pursuit of knowledge and research over material wealth. This sentiment laid the groundwork for what would become a crucial site for earthquake prediction and disaster preparedness efforts, situated on the historical grounds of the Imperial Headquarters.

Drawing from my experience at the Natural Disaster Information Office and in collaboration with the Precise Earthquake Observation Office of the Japan Meteorological Agency (now known as the Matsushiro Earthquake Observatory), I have had the unique opportunity to organize and delve into discussions from that era. Despite being born after the seismic events in Matsushiro, I find the archival records fascinating. They not only recount the collective efforts of Matsushiro’s residents to forge a disaster-resilient community in the aftermath of the earthquake but also highlight the comprehensive nature of the research conducted.

The inquiries extended beyond seismic analysis, encompassing a holistic examination of the earthquake’s impact on the community. Noteworthy is the health survey conducted on students from a local school, in collaboration with the Matsushiro Health Center and hospital, to assess the psychological and physical effects of the seismic swarms. Moreover, the scope of investigation included studies on earthquake-induced landslides and the repercussions on water infrastructure, showcasing the multifaceted response from various experts and frontline workers of the time.

This rich tapestry of collective memory and scientific inquiry underscores the enduring spirit of Matsushiro—a community united in its commitment to disaster resilience, informed by the lessons of its past.



Day_71: The Tsunami history in Tohoku : 1896 Meiji sanriku tsunami

The Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami (GEJET) disaster is the deadliest disaster after the Second World War in Japan. The earthquake happened at 2:46 p.m. on March 11th, 2011. The total casualty number is 19,846 based on the EM-DAT. The maximum . tsunami height is 40m on the Sanriku Ria Coast. The first wave arrives approximately 30 minutes  after the earthquake.

The Sanriku areas have a special geographical condition mentioned as the Sanriku Ria Coast. The coast has mountains close to the sea, so residential areas are limited only in the narrow and lower zones near the sea, and the areas become very vulnerable against the tsunamis. The bays on the coast are small, and the sea inside the bays is very deep. This makes tsunamis faster and higher, which is why the Sanriku Ria Coast has the highest tsunami risk area in the world.

Because of these characteristics, the communities on the Sanriku Ria coast, mainly in Iwate prefecture, have historically been severely affected by tsunami disasters such as the Meiji Sanriku Tsunami (1896), Sowa Sanriku Tsunami (1933), and Chilean Earthquake Tsunami (1960), compared to the flat coast mainly in Miyagi prefecture and other areas in Japan.

I will explain a little bit about the Meiji (1896). This disaster is so-called a surprise attack. The tsunami disaster happened at approximately . 7:30 p.m. on June 15, 1896, mainly on the Sanriku Ria coast. The dead and missing number has been reported at over 22,000. The earthquake is not so strong (the Japanese earthquake scale indicates Shindo 1-2); however, the tsunami is very strong and high (the maximum height is 38.2m in the Ayasato area (present-day Ofunato city)) compared to the earthquake movement scale. This has severe impacts.We call this huge tsunami caused by a weak earthquake Tsunami Earthquake. The first wave arrives approximately 35 meters after the earthquake. The Meiji (1896) has been the worst tsunami disaster ever in Japan.

In 1611, the larger tsunami (Keicho Sanriku Tsunami*) than Meiji hit the Sanriku area. That could also be a “tsunami earthquake.” After that, every 40 years, the people in the area tended to have a big tsunami. Even though they had such experiences, they did not have good tsunami disaster countermeasures, and the tsunami was a “tsunami earthquake.” In addition, they had some ancient traditions, like the idea that a tsunami was a punishment from the gods and Buddha. These are the main causes that made the Meiji worse.

Keicho Sanriku Tsunami

The Kyodo news company has obtained the pictures on the Meiji (1896)


Day_123 : 1995 Kobe Earthquake victims (2)- Golden 72 hours

Day_76 gave you the following two inquiries on the 1995 Kobe earthquake:.
1) Why were so many early 20’s victims victimized?
2) Which floor is more dangerous, 1st or 2nd?

Day_76 : 1995 Kobe Earthquake victims


The next question is: what can you say about the following Figure 1?

Figure 1: Search & Rescue Operation Statistics

You can see the survival rate dramatically dropped after 3 days and 72 hours. The experts say this 72 hours after the disaster, especially earthquake, is golden 72 hours. This is a well-known phrase even before the Kobe earthquake.

Day_180: The Aftermath of “Natural” Disasters: Long-term Effects

The enduring consequences of natural disasters can be equally as catastrophic as their immediate repercussions. They frequently result in economic instability, social turmoil, and environmental destruction. Furthermore, they have the potential to establish a harmful cycle of destitution and susceptibility, particularly in developing countries.

For example, the act of demolishing infrastructure has the potential to interrupt vital services, including healthcare, education, and transportation. These consequences can have extensive effects on the progress of social and economic development, impeding endeavors to alleviate poverty and enhance living conditions.

<The Impact of Natural Disasters on Global Economies>

Natural disasters exert a substantial influence on global economics. They have the potential to inflict substantial financial losses, interrupt the flow of goods and services, and impede economic progress. Furthermore, they have the potential to worsen economic disparities, as individuals with few means are frequently the most severely affected.

As an illustration, the earthquake and tsunami that occurred in Japan in 2011 resulted in around $360 billion in losses, establishing it as the most expensive natural catastrophe in recorded history. The occurrence additionally prompted a nuclear catastrophe, exacerbating the economic and societal repercussions.