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Quake researchers warn of Tokyo's 'Big One'

By Karyn Poupee

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a 50% chance of suffering a major quake—anything above a magnitude 7.0—in the next four years.

So this is better than the 70% chance we were given a couple of months ago, then?


The numbers seem to make this comparatively good news...unless one or both sets of data are wrong?

-9 ( +4 / -15 )

You guys made a mistake. It is a 70% chance. Saw the research myself.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Keeping Tokai II nuclear plant closed would be a good start.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

This could be the most terrifying news article I've ever read in my life. It's amazing that the capital hasn't already been moved elsewhere. Even more amazing that the government is even considering restarting nuclear facilities.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

I don't care how many "scientists" would claim that a big earthquake measuring X.X magnitude would hit Y city within the next Z years.

Reason is, they call themselves "scientists", but like to disclose information which are trivial, useless, and based on 100% guesswork.

2 ( +7 / -4 )

After Tohoku and Fuku. Par for the course!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am starting to get a grasp on the Japanese media scene: Whenever there's a slow news day, you simply publish a new article on "the big one (tm)", and watch the page impressions roll in.

The Big One is the Japanese media's answer to the the Paris Hilton crotch shot or Kardashian wedding.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Where's the "news" here? Nothing new, same old rehashed stories we've been hearing for ages.

Looks like some reporter had nothing better to write about or needed to make their monthly story quota.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

the biggest life threatening thing with long term effects are the nuclear plants. We already know that if the big one strikes, people will die. What we do not know is if all tehe 54 nuclear reactors are set ablaze as a result of the earthquake, shall we still have a country called Japan on the map? Have you ever pictured a scenario where all japanese will be nuclear emigrants seeking for asylum all over the earth? With poor planning, this is coming. It is surprizing that the debate is limited on shifting people within Japan. The debate should go further to debate a worse scenario where all the nuclear reactors spew waste and radiation uncontrollably....

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Does it really matter?

You can get hit by a buss crossing the road and dying? Or a similar random incident.

All this worrying about the "worst case scenario" only ages you prematurely and reduces your life-span as would excessive drinking/smoking/etc.

Your call.

-2 ( +8 / -9 )

Quake prediction is heavily funded by the government, so these cats at Todai's ERI are always coming up with these probabilities about the Tokai 'big one' or they lose their funding. Their predictions are based on highly questionable theories about slippage and buildup, and have never been remotely verified. ALL of the lethal quakes in Japan since this prediction business started in earnest have occurred in areas deemed low risk. Tohoku was a 0.1% probability, for example.

Geller is right in criticizing the government's (and their pet researchers') over concentration on a big one hitting Tokyo. Earthquakes are not like the seasons. They do not happen in cycles. While most seismologists in other countries have serious apprehensions about earthquake prediction, the government-sponsored ones in Japan continue to pursue it zealously. And with no verification that it is doable.

Large earthquakes can happen any time, and it is better to be prepared. But putting probabilities on predicting when and where are silly.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Since it will kill thousands, I wonder if the scientists are planning to move out of Tokyo themselves.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Just be prepared, water, tinned food, some means of making fire and boiling water, some rice, thermal blankets, sleeping bags, maybe a tent, batteries, torch, wind up radio, toilet paper etc.

You could be left to survive on what you have and your wits for upto a week or more in all seriousness, if you survive the BIG ONE. If you dont survive then you have nothing at all to worry about.

Carry on your life as you normally would but just be aware that shock and awe could strike at any moment, so enjoy what you are doing now, untill it comes down to survival.

Other option is to leave now.

If your number is up then it's up simple.

2 ( +4 / -2 )


But in your comment, there's no earthquake that would set all the current reactors into meltdowns.

Yes you may be right if you are focused on earthquake alone and if they happen in one place at a time. Even then, if all the 6 reactors at Daiichi had a melt-down, the debate would be different. However, when you take risk analysis of nuclear plants there is more to it. Is it for instace far-fetched to imagine that a terrorist attack can cause damage to several nuclear plants even if distributed in various regions? The sept 11 american scenario is for you!! Who ever imagined that such targets could be struck within such short time? It is not only earthquakes, man! The damn nuclear plants business is quite risky....

-2 ( +1 / -4 )

The numbers seem to make this comparatively good news...unless one or both sets of data are wrong?

It's all guess work... they haven't got a clue!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Japan will survive anything. If there is a devastating quake, the richest will leave and buy America.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Where's the "news" here? Nothing new, same old rehashed stories we've been hearing for ages.

I agree. We've known for a long time now that Tokyo has a good chance of being hit by a very big earthquake. Before 3/11 the story was always that devastating earthquakes have hit Tokyo every 60 years on average so we've been overdue since the 80s. Nothing new here!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Then again, Tokyo might not get hit with "the big one" for another 500 years.

"If there is a devastating quake the richest will leave and buy America"

Then again, if there is a devastating quake, the richest might not survive it.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I think it's important to keep publishing these articles. Japanese people are very complacent. The numbers are the same as the last report, but at least they have printed where the quake is expected, Sagami Bay. I did read that the Tohoku quake was 99% expected in the next 30 years(prior to 3/11). But they predicted it wouldn't be as strong as it was and that the Tokai quake was more of a concern. Both Tohoku and Tokai have unleasehed major quakes in the past. Reports were out on 1st September last year and will continue. Expect more when BBC covers the 1-year anniversary.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Ok, now we are warned. Is there anything we can do with this information? It is useless.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

Love, do you have your emergency kit set up? Water, blankets, a rainsuit, a tent, a portable gas stove with gas canisters, flashlites with extra batteries, milk, toilet/tissue paper, etc?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

it will strike this year im sure of it. as per nakajima sans psychic

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

I predict there will be a 100% chance of an earthquake, sometime between now and the year 5000 AD. So where do I apply to get a government grant to study these figures?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Its hard enough to live a human life, its harder to live a japanese life....Ganbare Nippon! May God have mercy on you.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

My Japanese co-worker was telling me that if Tokyo has abig earthquake, that Japan would simplystop functioning. All the cell phones would stop working because hte phone companies' headquarters are in Tokyo... and pretty much everything else. I definitely support the second capital as Osaka... a capital running in parallel but at a lower functional operating mode until needed. It makes sense to me.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Love, do you have your emergency kit set up? Water, blankets, a rainsuit, a tent, a portable gas stove with gas canisters, flashlites with extra batteries, milk, toilet/tissue paper, etc?

Serrano, most people have prepared their emergency kits. But did you read the article? It says:

if an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.3 occurred in the northern part of Tokyo Bay on a weekday evening, around 6,400 people would die, with 160,000 injured.

we will need the emergency kit in case we survive the earthquake. But if we die immediately, we won't need anything right? Even if we prepare blankets and water, it won't help us.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

There may or may not be a big one in Tokyo soon but as long as you continue to predict there will be one long enough you will get it right! Or you get retired which ever comes first!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Just like in Los Angeles, there's always a "big one" round the corner... If the ground shaking every 12 hours didn't tell you that, then don't blame me when it hits and you need water, some rations, and a warm tent to sleep in... I'm prepared, are you?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I am fully prepared with a kit with everything including small change, bills etc. But the problem I foresee, is that if I cannot get here to use the stored goods, then what is the use?

How many people were home during 3/11? Not many from what I saw walking with huge crowds for hours on end.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hmmm, a 50/50 chance? Is that like heads or tails? Reports like this pop up every few months. I guess one day they will be justified, maybe. However, I don't remember any of these so-called 'geniuses' predicting the March 11 quake. Or, the Kobe quake, for that matter.

If or when the 'big one' does come there is very little you can do about it. Just hope you survive, I suppose. Having a survival kit will only help if you are at home. The March 11 quake showed how inadequate the safety procedures in place actually are. The wheels fell off Tokyo pretty damn quickly and took over a fortnight to recover. As dark as it may sound, kiss your kids every day cos it might just very well be the last time you see them or they see you. Have a nice evening everyone. :P

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'll probably be marooned on the far side of town if this kicks off in daylight, but my wife and daughter will be in a rock solid building with ten days' worth of supplies in it.

But one can't help but wonder about this downgrading of the numbers. Six weeks ago we were a 30:70 shot, but now it's evens. Yet the article seems to want us to be scared.

Ah well, I suppose if enough people are scared enough to make suitable preparations now, before scrambling for toilet paper five hours too late, this kind of reminder serves its purpose.

-8 ( +1 / -9 )

When I first came to live here in Japan in 1973, Japanese earthquake experts were clearly stating that massive earthquakes struck Tokyo on a cycle of around 50 years, so we were immediately due for a completely destructive follow up of the 1923 giant Kanto earthquake. Well, 39 years later, I'm still waiting. I am, however, slightly questioning that, apart from the "expert's" inability to forecast earthquakes, whether or not the architects and construction companies have learned nothing. We are now 90 years on from the Kanto Dai-jishin, and even if a similar quake hits again, there should be less wholesale destruction. Despite all the rationalization I have just given, however, the main point is that we have no idea of the geological rhythms of our archipelago -- 50 years, could be a pattern or a mere blip on a scale of billions of years. In other words, we have no idea, so why worry? The "experts" in this case, probably no nothing more than the astrologers or other nuts. Of course there is a 50% chance that a massive earthquake COULD hit Tokyo in the next four years — but this also means that there is also a damn good chance that such an earthquake WILL NOT DO SO in the next 4, 40, 400 or even 4000 years. At my age, I'll settle for the next 40.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

“The government’s estimate that the risk in (this area) is greater than elsewhere is based on a flawed methodology and is completely meaningless,” Geller, a professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at the University of Tokyo, told AFP.

A. Tokyo sits at the juncture of four fault lines.

B. The physical effects of last year's 9.0 quake DID cause liquification at Disney - Tokyo, so an 8.0 centered on Tokyo can be expected to do the same.

C. The population is 48.8 million (city and metro combined). More than any other location in the country.

D. If another big quake hits while Japan is still trying to recover from the Tohoku quake, the government will be unable to respond in any meaningful way as their resources are tied up in the Tohoku recovery.

So yes, an earthquake in the Tokyo area IS a higher risk than one out in the countryside. It's not "completely meaningless". The problem with geologists is they tend to view risk only in the sense of the chance of something happening, not how many people it happens to.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

But if we die immediately, we won't need anything right?

Some posters here think if a big earthquake hits Tokyo, you will die. You might. If 6400 out of 35 million die, that means 1 out of 5468 will die. You have more chance to survive than you die. Better be prepared than doing nothing.

The hazard maps have been revised recently in Kanagawa and Saitama. Hopefully in Tokyo, too. You should know where to evacuate according to the map.

But still, don’t put all your faith in hazard maps, according to Kamaishi JH.


How many people were home during 3/11?

There have been condominium apartment buildings designated as an emergency shelters. Be aware of those buildings if possible.


There are underground warehouse stocked with emergency supplies in Tokyo sidewalk. Items include 5,000 blankets, 8,000 rugs, 4,000 candles, 300 cooking pots, 200 t-shirts, and emergency medical supplies.


In Tokyo, the most damage will be done by fire. You should have at least one fire extinguisher at home. It cost 3,000~5,000yen .


The most important thing is "calm down".

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I think the big one will hit Tokyo this year... I'm sure of it.

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Sensationalism. It could hit tomorrow, or it could hit in 1000 years. Nobody knows. We don´t know, and those researchers don´t know. Of course, the city has to do everything possible to be prepared. But there is no news value in announcements like this.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Greater Tokyo, home to 35 million tightly packed people, has seen a three-fold increase in tectonic activity since the magnitude 9.0 undersea quake that unleashed a killer tsunami last March.

The earth under Tokyo has been slipping three-times as much as before the Tohoku earthquake. Seems to me that's also three-times the rate at which the pressure is building up at a sticky point. Ergo, from whatever chance there was for a "big one" under Tokyo before, now it's three-times more likely. It still could be decades (or centuries) down the road, but all this additional activity isn't DELAYING the next "big one", that's for sure.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

The University of Tokyo’s Earthquake Research Institute says the city, built at the intersection of four tectonic plates, has a 50% chance of suffering a major quake—anything above a magnitude 7.0—in the next four years.

Sigh. Here we go again. AFP is echoing last week's CNN which is echoing the Yomiuri Shimbun of 1/23, which was based on cherry-picked data. This figure is simply not true, even the Todai researchers are scurrying to deny they said it. There will be a big quake, definitely, someday, but nobody knows when.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Shady numbers aside, the main points of the article remain valid. Japan and Tokyo has to seriously consider the impact of a large scale earthquake hitting the capital in the current status quo, and act now to implement precautions to mitigate the damage. At the same time, the lesson of Fukushima should be at nowhere else except the forefront in consideration of the other nuclear reactors that the country runs on. The last thing anyone needs is scare mongering, but failing to consider the risks and impacts properly will create a repeat of last year's crisis.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Just be prepared, you never know and neither does anyone else, I would prefer to be as prepared as reasonably possible than to not be prepared.

If you are ready with some form of supplies and nothing happens what is the total damage? Maybe 10,000yen or so depending on the extent of what you prepare.

If you do nothing the damage could be emmense as you struggle for survival, imagine 35 million other people all want that bottle of water, that rice ball and that crap paper, what ya gonna do then?

Admittedly you may not be near your earthquake kit when the big one strikes, but then you could well be.

If everyone is prepared then you are never going to be far away from an earthquake kit whether it's yours or someone else's, then it doesnt matter where you are when the big one goes OFF !

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A very frightening prediction.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Pretty scary stuff. Isn't Mt. Fuji expected to blow soon too?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

If you dont have the mettle to deal with what could happen then you may need to wrap yourself up in cotton wool and consider a trip to Narita.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Before I was born I was dead for millions of years and it wasn't so bad, notwithstanding I try to keep a hard hat & survival kit at an arm's length at home and work.

As far as I know, no earthquake has ever really been predicted accurately, scientifically, up front; this whole prediction seems based on pachinko-logic to me; like putting your stack on red when playing roulette. Gotta be right some time, eh?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

On the other hand, it might be better not to be prepared.

When the big one hits, I'm sure Japanese people would take pity on me and give me a mikan or something and then, later, I would be able to treasure the memories of beautiful acts of kindness in the midst of tragedy.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Choiwaruoyaji we already wellnigh pity thee.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No matter what is the truth, there is history of earthquakes in Tokyo area and its likely to hit again for sure. This does not mean that we run, in fact me and my wife are ready. Our household has food, water, propane, electric generator, ham radio, gasoline etc for several months for our household of 6 people, JUST IN CASE! If nothing happens: good, if it does, we are ready! We are not going to make Tokyo a place of fear for us to live, its our home! PEACE

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

I was told when I first arrived to Japan, with great fanfair, that I was living on borrowed time as the Kanto Plain was already overdue for the big one.

That was in 1991.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My Japanese co-worker was telling me that if Tokyo has abig earthquake, that Japan would simplystop functioning. All the cell phones would stop working because hte phone companies' headquarters are in Tokyo... and pretty much everything else.

While an acquaintance of mine said that if a devastating earthquake in Tokai, Japan's economy would literally stop because most of the car manufacturers' main offices and plants are right here. And we all know that cars are Japan's number 1 product and export.

Not that I'm saying Tokyo's a less important area, but that people have different perspectives of the same scenario. One or both may be true ... or false. Same with earthquake predictions. Some scientists even have a very large time frame of 10-50 or even 200-500 years! Who can dispute their claims?

As for the emergency seat of government if Tokyo does get devastated, it doesn't matter if it's in Osaka, Kyoto, Sapporo, Okinawa or even in Niigata.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

With modern technology, it is possible to delocalize government functions anywhere (cloud-based databases, video conferences, etc.). There is no need anymore for such a concentration of power you can observe in Kasumigaseki. In addition to create backup centers in case of emergency, it would also be good to downsize and rationalize the plethoric Japanese administration (no paper policy, online database integration, management reorganization).

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I'd be more concerned with Fujiyama. That thing is dormant, hasn't erupted since Edo, and is due any year now. That thing blows and you can kiss a million people goodbye.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

This is a useless scaremongering news report for sure Regarding earthquake predicions it appears to me that scientisits are still a long way from predicing quakes as the Tohoku quake was a big shock to them. Unlike what they predicted It might be a shock to them also that no major quakes will happen in Tokyo during everyones life time existing today. We should be prepared always for quakes, survival kits, fire extinguishers etc but get on with day to day life in Tokyo and enjoy

0 ( +1 / -1 )

There is a 50% chance that I don't care what the experts say. Same prediction every year. Yaaaaaaawn.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

About 5 years ago my crazy ex said that the next big earthquake in Japan would not be in Tokyo but up north. Thats the only thing I can remember that witch ever being right about...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

1 thing I dont quite get, which I realised during the march 2011 quake, is why do a lot of office tower block owners insist on plaster board lining their emergency stair wells? Surely the point of an emergency stair well is to provide a quick and safe way out of the building, which if its filled with fallen plaster board it is not!

0 ( +0 / -0 )

^ If the plaster board is falling as you're going down the stairs, chances are it would hurt a lot less than brick walls falling.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

well, duh... what im saying is why bother even lining the reinforced concrete walls?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I AM BEGGING FOR ATTENTION. I am a Israeli guy who contacted Japanese scientist Mr. Hayakawa who is in charge of earthquake reserchs in Japan about the recent invention by Israeli scientists. a machine can predict exact pin point of the earthquakes location, magnitude, date and time 3 days a head of earthquake, this machine can also predict the tsunamis location, height and date that will strike the land. however the heavy burocracy in japan dont allow them to purchase such machines from overseas,( I guess they have their pride about being no 1 on earthquake researchs) so anybody who is reading this comment, we can prevent this disaster and save millions of lives, trillions of dollars of damage, and basicly Japanese economy therefore we can save Japan, all I need is a help from somebody who is well connected with government. we have the prototype of the machine settled in Moldova it is 100% accured we can prove that it works, anybody who can contact me from my mail add: avi_mazalto@yahoo.com thank you.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

If they were really worried they wouldn't shove every headquarters down that way. If this truely was a big concern wouldn't they have diversified the headquarters. Surely, with the internet, face to face meetings need not be so often. Except no one really listen to these things. They are akin to finding out that your favorite food might be carcinogenic. Way too many warning to ever really be taken seriously. Do use the Listerine.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@avimazalto "I AM BEGGING FOR ATTENTION" - I knew I should stop reading right there.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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