Connect with us

Economy & Tech

EDITORIAL | Effective Noto Peninsula Earthquake Response Hinges on Great Hanshin Earthquake Lessons

On the 39th anniversary, the people of Kobe sent the earthquake victims on the Noto Peninsula a message: "Let’s help each other, and ask others to do the same."



It has been 29 years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake. At Higashi Yuenchi park in Kobe, a moment of silence is held at 5:46 AM on January 17, and the words "1995 Together 1.17" are spelled out. That is the time the earthquake occurred in 1995. (January 17, 2024, in Kobe City. (© Sankei by Shigetaka Doi)

It has been 29 years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake that claimed more than 6,000 lives. 

Twenty-nine years ago in 1995, the port city of Kobe was engulfed in flames. Approximately 630,000 homes were damaged, and highways and other parts of the urban infrastructure collapsed in places. However, in the following days, residents worked together to revive their city from the rubble.

Drawing on that experience, various types of support are being extended to areas affected by the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. Nevertheless, some affected areas in Ishikawa Prefecture are not equipped to accept outside assistance at this time. Therefore, they have not been receiving the support they so desperately need.

People line up paper lanterns at a memorial site for the Great Hanshin Earthquake, 39 years later. January 16, 2024, in Higashiyuen Park in Kobe. (© Kyodo)

Government Coordination of Disaster Aid

It is the government's role to coordinate support for tasks that disaster-stricken local governments cannot handle on their own. Hopefully, all possible efforts will be made, drawing on the lessons learned from past disasters such as the Hanshin disaster.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced on January 4 that the government would send senior officials to the Ishikawa Prefectural Office. They were being dispatched from central government agencies to help in response to the Noto Peninsula earthquake. He described a mini version of the relevant central government agencies clustered in the Kasumigaseki district of Tokyo whose job would be to "coordinate closely with Tokyo to grasp local needs."

At the time of the Great Hanshin Earthquake, the central government failed to provide timely assistance to the disaster areas of Hyogo Prefecture and Kobe City. Moreover, it did not dispatch personnel from around Japan to assist them even after they appealed for help. 

The words "1995, Together 1.17" appear in lights. The message also contains thoughts for the victims of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. (January 17, 2024 in Kobe City, © Sankei by Tomoichiro Takekawa)

Neighborly Support

Based on lessons learned from that earlier failure, the national government now has a formal system to address such crises. Disaster-stricken local governments are assigned supporting local governments as partners. This means support is provided according to their actual needs.

Mie Prefecture has been in charge of such things for Ishikawa Prefecture in the wake of the Noto Peninsula Earthquake. It coordinates and allocates the number of personnel to be dispatched by each jurisdiction. 

Nonetheless, with roads cut off and other complications, it has been difficult to dispatch support staff to some areas. Furthermore, although there is a manpower shortage, the disaster-affected areas are not yet accepting volunteers from the general public.


It is vital to consider how to utilize people from both within and outside the disaster area. For example, deciding how to best use those with needed skills and experience that local staff alone cannot provide. 

Children offer flowers and join hands at a memorial ceremony on the 29th anniversary of the Great Hanshin Earthquake on January 17 at Seido Elementary School in Hyogo Prefecture. (© Sankei by Shigeru Amari)

Volunteers on the Road to Recovery

During the year following the Great Hanshin Earthquake, a total of roughly 1.37 million people worked as volunteers. They engaged in all kinds of support activities. Often this went beyond the purely material to include emotional support for disaster victims. And many of these volunteers also continued this personal assistance even after the affected communities were on the road to recovery. 

The disaster was nearly three decades ago. On January 17, Kobe held the annual "January 17 Remembrance Gathering" to commemorate the victims of the disaster. Paper lanterns were arranged to create the Japanese kanji for "Together."  The message that the people of Kobe were sending to earthquake victims on the Noto Peninsula was "Let’s help each other, and ask others to do the same."


(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

Our Partners