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.