New Year's Day earthquake - what happened?
At 4:10pm local time (0710 GMT) on 1st January, a powerful earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.6 struck central Japan's western coastline on the Noto Peninsula, leading to tsunami alerts and evacuation warnings. Although the quake could be felt in Tokyo, 190 miles from the epicentre, there was no disruption in the capital or in other major cities on the eastern seaboard such as Nagoya, Osaka and Kyoto.
The affected region, Noto Peninsula, experienced a rapid succession of over 40 earthquakes of at least magnitude 3.5 leading to power outages, disrupted transportation services, and resulting in some collapsed houses in Wajima city. A large fire damaged several houses in Wajima city and the local hospitals reported injuries. Sadly, there have been several fatalities but thankfully these have been limited which is testament to how good construction standards and earthquake protocols are in Japan. Waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet) were reported and although a major tsunami warning was issued for the area immediately in the vicinity of the quake, this has subsequently been downgraded. No irregularities were reported at nuclear power plants along the Sea of Japan.
What does this mean for travel to Japan?
We do not anticipate that this earthquake will have any significant impact on travel to Japan. The major cities on the east coast are unaffected and although some of the pictures from the Noto Peninsula are quite dramatic with some collapsed houses and large cracks in some roads, Japan is very well geared up to deal with these kinds of incidents.
Rail transport in the in the affected prefectures was stopped as a precaution, though most of it was resumed in the week after the earthquake. The closest major city to the epicentre was Kanazawa and although some damage was sustained, we are not getting any reports of anything major in this location.
If you were planning to travel to travel to Noto Peninsula in January then you should potentially consider changing your plans or, at the very least, checking in with your tour operator, travel agent or the accommodation where you are booked to stay. For everywhere else in Japan no changes to your plans will be necessary.
The Hokuriku Shinkansen (Bullet Train) which runs between Tokyo and Kanazawa via the West Coast was resumed the first week of January.
How does InsideJapan handle these kinds of situations?
The safety of our customers is always our number one concern. We have a Customer Experience team based in Nagoya who's first priority is to make contact with any customers in the affected areas. They are supported by team members in our UK and US branches. The CX team is there to provide any help and support required, rearrange plans is necessary and make sure that everybody is well looked after.
For major incidents we put in place an incident management team who work together to keep our customers updated and ensure that anyone with trips coming up in the next few days is fully informed. If any arrangements need to be changed, the incident team handles that working together with our operations teams in Japan.
We also try to keep our wider audiences up to date and provide accurate information. Some of the headlines in the media can be quite worrying and perhaps a bit misleading without a bit of wider context. We always try to make sure we are a source of reliable information, and with our base in the country and over 50 staff on the ground, we are well positioned to do that. Most important is to understand the geography of Japan and where the impact of an incident is being felt.