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When we take a glance at Japan, we perceive it as an incredibly advanced country, especially, when it comes to technologies. From robots to super-fast bullet trains and up to the impressive vending machines, this island country lying off the east coast of Asia, appears to live decades or even hundreds of years in the future. For example, Japan's Shinkansen Express (Bullet Train) has been around for some time and is still one of the most advanced forms of public transport around the world.²
However, in spite all of these technological developments, the said country was recently just struck by a powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Fukushima in northern Japan, on March 16, 2022. Everyone was shaken by the news. Consequently, the earthquake has resulted to the death of at least four people, triggered a tsunami advisory and plunged more than 2 million homes in the Tokyo area into darkness.¹
Historically, this is not the first time they have encountered such devastating calamity. In fact, the aforementioned region is part of northern Japan that was also devastated by a deadly 9.0 quake and tsunami 11 years ago. The earthquake was so intense that it has triggered nuclear plant meltdowns and spewed massive radiation that still makes some parts of the region uninhabitable.¹ According to JMA (the Meteorological Agency of Japan), there is an approximate number of 2000 earthquakes that strike in Japan every year. When we convert it into percentage, there is atleast 18.5% of earthquakes in the world that occurs in Japan.⁴ Imagine how extremely high these numbers are.
As we try broaden our perception, let's try to think and reflect of the following questions. What makes Japan so vulnerable to earthquakes? How does the government respond to such deadly disaster? And, being an advanced country, haven't they made technologies that can predict earthquake occurrence that would lessen the damage and casualties?
Firstly, the very main reason why Japan is prone to earthquakes because of its position along the Pacific Ring of Fire. Although in reality, it is an imaginary horseshoe-shaped zone, it is where many of the world's earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur. The movement and collision of large tectonic plates in the Pacific Ring of Fire trigger earthquakes, that would also cause numerous tsunamis in turn. The other reason is because of its topography. The country's topography is rugged and there are many faults and there are many steep inclines.⁴
On the other hand, Japan's government respond to such serious calamity in a way that, in the first hours after the earthquake, Japanese Prime Minister Kan Naoto moved to set up an emergency command centre in Tokyo, and a large number of rescue workers and a hundred thousand members of the Japanese Self-Defense Force were rapidly mobilized to deal with crisis caused by the earthquake.⁴
Moreover, Japan has attempted to predict its occurrence. However, although Japan's National Project for Earthquake Prediction has been conducted since 1965 without success³, the country still found ways to lessen its damage and casualties among its buildings, infrastructures and public establishments. Many have counterweight system installed that swings with the movement of the building to stabilize it. Also, Japan has 7,600 buildings that use seismic isolation system where it reduces shaking by placing rubber, plastic, and oil in order to reduce tremor.⁴ Accordingly, it is the most number of buildings in the world, and followed by China with 3,600.
Technological development, in general, has so much positive effects and benefits on the human lives. It makes the human work easier, and provides an efficient solution to solve certain problems. However, the reality is, it does also not guarantee that it can predict those that are meant to be unpredictable, or save all the lives of the humanity. Although that's what technologies are meants for, everything has limitations. Like in Japan, no matter how they have gone when it comes to these advancements, disasters, usually, can never be predicted nor stopped. That's, when time is time to Japan.