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Series of New Year Earthquakes in Japan: What We Know So Far

There are now 206 confirmed deaths in the ongoing New Year earthquakes off the Noto Peninsula. We share updates on rescue and recovery operations.



In Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture, the road was severely cracked by a series of earthquakes on January 1. (©Kyodo)

Residents in coastal regions of six prefectures facing the Sea of Japan were told by authorities to immediately evacuate following the first of a series of strong earthquakes that hit Ishikawa and neighboring prefectures in central Japan. The earthquakes began just after 4 PM on Monday, January 1. A magnitude 7.6 earthquake, and others that have continued since then, were also followed by tsunamis. Officials lifted lengthy tsunami warnings on January 2, but short term tsunami warnings may still occur following larger aftershocks. Tremors from aftershocks continued into January 10.

As of noon on January 11, authorities had confirmed 206 deaths, over 100 still missing, and over 3,000 people still cut off from the rest of the region and the world. Tens of thousands are continuing to live in evacuation centers or alternative shelters due to the destruction of the earthquake and tsunamis that followed. There is greater fear of more fatalities as rescue workers work to find the missing.

Expressing concern about the earthquakes, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called for the amount of damages to be confirmed as quickly as possible. In a January 1 press conference, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshimasa Hayashi further reported that no abnormalities have been confirmed at nuclear power stations in the aftermath. Reports on January 10 confirmed that had not changed.

Shoppers sit on the floor of a supermarket after another strong tremor in Toyama City, Toyama Prefecture, on January 1. (©Kyodo)
This house collapsed from the earthquakes on January 1 in Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture. (©Kyodo)

Cautions Continue

Photos and videos were posted by various news outlets as well as by affected residents on social media. They showed collapsed buildings, overturned fishing vessels, cracked roads, landslides a shrine's collapsed torii gate, and fires in a residential neighborhood, along with other types of damage. 

Water and power outages continue to be widespread throughout the Noto Peninsula in the hardest hit area. Several areas also experienced disrupted telecom services. 

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued major tsunami warnings in the affected prefectures. It was their first time to do so since the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.


Airlines and train services were disrupted. Among them, the JR East Hokuriku Shinkansen and Joetsu Shinkansen lines were among those suspended. However, JR East said it had restarted all lines of both Shinkansen lines as of 4 PM on January 2.

At Noto Airport near the worst-affected region, the terminal building was heavily damaged and the runway was cracked by the severe tremors. NHK reported around 500 people stranded in the parking lot, waiting for rescue. Roads to the airport were also heavily damaged by the quakes.


All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines canceled flights into and out of airports in the region on January 1, affecting travel throughout Japan. However, they had resumed flights to all but the most damaged airports in the immediate region on January 2 and 3.

South Shinkansen transfer gate at JR Tokyo Station is crowded due to transportation disruptions from the earthquake on January 1. (©Kyodo)
In Wajima City, the road was severely cracked by a series of earthquakes on January 1. (©Kyodo)

Here are the additional updates we have gathered so far from government authorities, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and other reports.

Japan Meteorological Agency official explains about the earthquakes in Ishikawa Prefecture on January 1. (©Kyodo)

Magnitude and Epicenter of the Earthquake 

Beginning just after 4 PM on New Year's Day, a series of strong earthquakes centered off the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture hit coastal towns and cities along the Sea of Japan. The Japan Meteorological Agency reported the initial tremors as measuring M5.7, 6.1, and 7.6. Aftershocks, including some in the M6 range, continued into the night. More aftershocks are expected in the coming days. Earthquakes of M5 or greater hit the region at least 9 times between 4 PM on January 1 and noon on January 2 and have continued intermittently since. Tremors of M2 or greater were registered about over 220 times through 7 AM on January 3. Earthquakes in the M5 range continued intermittently into January 10.

Earthquakes impact homes in Shiga Town, Ishikawa Prefecture on January 1. (©Kyodo)

Tsunamis Followed

The initial series of three earthquakes shook homes and buildings as far away as the5 Kanto region, including Tokyo. They continue to impact transportation schedules throughout the country. Some roads into the devastated region are unlikely to reopen to normal traffic for weeks.

Along the Sea of Japan coast, the earthquakes were followed by tsunamis. According to the government, over 100 hectares (nearly 250 acres) were flooded by tsunamis. A significant land shift occurred, including some regions where the land level was raised by several meters. Since the full extent of devastation is not yet known. Depending on the location, warnings were issued for tsunami heights of less than 1 meter to about 5 meters (3.3–16.4 ft).

Japan Meteorological Agency lifted its extended live tsunami warnings at 1:15 AM on January 2 but left tsunami advisories remained in effect along the entire Sea of Japan coastline of Japan's main island. Additional warnings were issued for the region extending as far as Hokkaido as M5 and greater earthquakes continued on subsequent days.

Earthquake and Tsunami Damage

Officials now report 206 confirmed deaths with over 100persons whose whereabouts are still not known. Hospitals and evacuation centers reported hundreds of injuries. At least one hospital death followed when doctors were unable to save an injured child. Property damage from the earthquakes and tsunamis that followed came in many forms, all devastating. Buildings including homes collapsed and fires ravaged some historic neighborhoods featuring old wooden houses. Tsunamis flooded coastal areas, washing away homes, beaching and overturning fishing vessels and changing the landscape.

Electric power and freshwater utilities experienced outages. Landslides took homes in a few neighborhoods, and overturned vehicles including fishing boats, were scattered across the region. Transportation infrastructure was severely disrupted, including broken national highways and cracked runway pavement at an airport in the region.

Fires triggered by the tremors spread quickly through seaside residential neighborhoods and historic commercial areas on the Noto Peninsula, including Wajima City in Ishikawa Prefecture. Flames and smoke from the fires were visible from the ground and by helicopter with fire crews continuing their efforts into the afternoon on Day 2. Reports by national broadcaster NHK indicated the fire damaged or destroyed over 200 buildings. Images from the air show the breadth of the devastation.

Economic Impact

In Ishikawa and Toyama prefectures, authorities continued to search for trapped victims in collapsed structures. Images showed large numbers of collapsed homes and other buildings, some with vehicles trapped under them. One woman was rescued alive by a rescue team on January 5, bringing a ray of hope to the families of missing persons. Rescue teams from around Japan and the Self-Defense Forces continued searching for survivors into Day 10.

Impacting the regions economy, whole tourist destinations on the Noto Peninsula were wiped out. In addition, 70% of the ports were damaged in this very fishery-dependent region. According to the national broadcasting service NHK, at least 130 fishing vessels were sunk or otherwise destroyed in the devastation.



Thousands of evacuees went to safer ground in facilities set up in government buildings, including an Air Self-Defense Force facility in Wajima, Ishikawa Prefecture, according to media reports and the Japan Self-Defense Forces. Local and national reports indicate that tens of thousands have been displaced. They are unable to return to their homes, either because they were destroyed or the area is not yet safe. Officials are preparing to provide longer-term support to those who have no homes to return to.

Fires broke out in Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture, following a series of earthquakes on January 1. (©Kyodo)
Roads in Kanazawa City were also cracked in the earthquakes of January 1 in Kanazawa City. (©Kyodo)
The torii gate of Onohiyoshi Shrine in Kanazawa City collapsed in the earthquakes of January 1. (©Kyodo)

Affected Prefectures

Ishikawa, Fukui, and Toyama Prefectures suffered notable damage. However, other prefectures were also affected, including Niigata, Yamagata, Hyogo, and Akita. Tsunami warnings also affected parts of Hokkaido. Around 6 million people live in the most affected prefectures. 

Fires broke out in Wajima City, Ishikawa Prefecture, following a series of earthquakes on January 1. (©Kyodo)
The torii gate of Onohiyoshi Shrine in Kanazawa City collapsed in the earthquake on January 1. (©Kyodo)

In the region of the earthquake's epicenter in Ishikawa Prefecture, broken water pipes and cracked infrastructure disrupted fresh water services. Long lines of residents were seen lining up at emergency services stations to fill containers with potable water on January 5. As of January 9, some disaster services are beginning to reach the area, although roads are still not open.

Hokuriku Electric Power Company in Ishikawa Prefecture reported around 30,000 residents without power early on January 5. By January 9, that number had halved, to about 15,500 households left without power.

Earlier, on January 2, a hospital in Suzu City taking some of the injured in Ishikawa Prefecture reported operating on backup generators due to the power outage, according to NHK.

Liquor bottles are scattered on the floor of a convenience store in Nanao City after a strong aftershock hit the Noto Peninsula in the evening of January 1. (©Sankei by Tetsuji Yamada)
Shoppers crouch down after the series of earthquakes struck, at a supermarket in Toyama City. January 1, 2024. (©Kyodo)

Financial Institutions Respond

The Financial Services Agency announced as of 4 PM on the afternoon of January 2 that the Hokuriku Local Finance Bureau and the Kanto Local Finance Bureau were affected by the disaster in Ishikawa, Toyama, Fukui, and Niigata prefectures. The FSA requested financial institutions to take flexible and prompt measures to secure deposits and to be flexible in making them available to disaster victims as needed. The importance of supporting the financial institutions and residents affected in the region was emphasized by Prime Minister Kishida in his January 4 press conference.

This page was updated at 1:00 PM on January 11. Further updates will be added as reports are consolidated.


Author: JAPAN Forward

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