Question Moii Social Sciences

Japan's susceptibility to natural disasters

Why is Japan so vulnerable to natural catastrophes?

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Answer Internal Staff

The majority of Japan’s natural disasters come about as a result of tectonic activity. This includes the direct effects of earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, but also secondary effects such as mudslides, nuclear meltdowns and tsunamis, which can all occur as a result of particularly severe tremors.

This activity occurs because of Japan’s situation at the intersection of multiple tectonic plates. Much of the activity is generated as a result of the subduction of the Pacific Plate under the neighbouring Okhotsk Plate, which forms the enormous Japan Trench off the east coast of the Japanese islands. For example, the most powerful earthquake in Japan’s history (in 2011) was a ‘megathrust’ earthquake in which the Okhotsk plate jolted upwards in response to this subduction movement. Aside from the devastating force of the quake itself, Japan was also beset by a massive tsunami and the meltdown of several reactors at Fukushima Daiichi. This demonstrates the power of tectonic activity to propagate further disasters for the country.

In addition to the danger of tectonic activity, Japan is also highly susceptible to experiencing typhoons. This is because it is situated near the Northwestern Pacific Basin, where a large proportion of the world’s typhoons are formed. While most of these drift further south towards the Philippines, they often curve back to the north towards Japan, causing severe weather conditions.