2.46pm on March 11 or 3/11 is marked in the nation’s calendar every year as the day that literally shook all of Modern Japan. Born from an Earthquake measuring at massive 9.1 in magnitude, it lasted for an estimated 6 minutes with shakes being felt across most of the country. As a result of such large tremors, there were multiple tsunamis, some more than 40 metres high, approaching the Tohoku coastline and travelling almost 10km inland.
Known as the ‘Great East Earthquake’ (東日本大震災 or Higashi Nihon Daishinsai) or the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake. It was alone the most powerful tremor in Japan’s history and the fourth largest in the world. You can also find out more about what you should do in an Earthquake in our concise guide.
The Tsunami itself was also so destructive it caused mass devastation across many areas in the Iwate and Miyagi prefectures and even parts of Sendai city and Airport. There were reports of more than 1 million buildings being damaged to some extent, and more than 120,000 which were completely collapsed. There was also 3 major nuclear meltdowns at 3 reactors of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, with the event being recognised as the most significant Nuclear disaster since Chernobyl.
The extent of the damage wasn’t just counted in money terms, with estimates ranging from US$183 billion (Bank of Japan) to US$235 billion (The World Bank). The other horrific factor was the number of people that had suffered at the hand of such a tragic event. Reports from the National Police Agency indicate there were almost 16,000 fatalities and more than 6,000 injured.
The impact on tourism was only fleeting, however, as numbers dropped slightly in 2011 and 2012, but started to regain momentum by 2013 towards what is now a surge to 2018 and beyond.
After the Destruction
These days around 73,000 people are still yet to return to their hometowns as rebuilding continues. Despite the Government claiming that more than 90% of rebuilt housing projects should be completed by this Spring and more than 80% of farmland and fisheries being restored to normal operation.
Therefore, at 2.46pm on March 11 each year, the nation stops and observes a moment’s silence for almost 16,000 of those that were victims of natural disaster.
In asking several of my Japanese acquaintances and friends that reside in Toky, this is what they could recall of the day; many remember a lot of shaking, particularly those on the upper levels, at least lasting a couple of minutes. Furthermore, because many companies finished up operations early that day, and with elevators out of order, a lot of people in high rise buildings had to evacuate their building via the fire escape, descending what I could imagine would be a neverending spiral of stairwells. What’s more, the train lines across Tokyo were all out of commission, and many had to endure at least a 1.5-hour or more walk home. One guy, I know even helped an elderly lady home first, as she was lost in all the anxiety, helping her to get to a completely different area, before eventually reaching his own home later that evening.
You may be interested in how the rebuilding process is going of late by reading our latest update.