Noto Peninsula Earthquake

The Noto Peninsula

It is always sad to hear the news from the areas affected by the earthquake in Ishikawa Prefecture, the northern part of Japan.

The Noto Peninsula earthquake of January 1, 2024 showed several issues that Japan may face in the future. The Nikkei January 29, 2024 issue mentioned the key problems:


 1.     Elderly population and population decline

Elderly citizens account to 50% of the population on the Noto Peninsula, and many of them live alone in small rural communities in the northern part of the Noto Peninsula. They are displaced in small villages, and need water, heat, and temporary housing after the earthquake[A6]  on Jan.1.


The percentage of the elderly population, 65+, is more than 50, in the Usu City and Noto Cho, and 45% or more in the Wajima City. There are about 90 villages where the number of households is below ten .


 2.     Significant damage to the infrastructure

It is difficult to deliver even basic supplies there, such as water, beverages, and diapers because of the harsh winter conditions and blocked roads, hampering any rescue efforts.


This situation shows the vulnerability of the Japanese aging population and infrastructure in rural areas.


Japan may need to expect the people living in the scattered villages to relocate to clustered settlements along the roads to further the improve infrastructure in the area.


 3.     Water supply

The most characteristic of the disaster situations is the extended water supply outage in the entire area of the Noto Peninsula. Two or three months may be required for the full recovery. It is too long a period compared to the week shortage in 2011 during the disaster and five days during the Kumamoto earthquake.


This is because of a low earthquake-resistance rate of the water pipes in the region due to the decreasing population. The rates are only 10.4% in Shiga-cho, 21.6% in Nanao city, and 36.2% in Suzu city.


When the population decreases, the cost of water supply increases to provide enough funds to maintain the infrastructure, but the aging population cannot cope with the costs.


 4. Earthquake-resistance rate

Many wooden houses collapsed during the earthquake and burned. The earthquake resistance rate in the country is more than 80% of the national average, but less than 50% in the affected area. The Noto Peninsula experienced a series of earthquakes before the January 1, 2024 earthquake. The houses must have been weakened over the years, but the elderly people hesitated to restore them because they had no successors to live in the area.


5.  Elderly population and population decline

We must remember that the elderly population and population decline are not just a problem of the underpopulated areas, but they are a problem in Japan. 

According to the predictions related to the population size in 2050 by cities/towns/villages, 11 prefectures will experience a 30% or more decline in population size. More than 60% of cities/towns/villages face a 30%– 50% decline in their population sizes.


6.  Aging Infrastructure

The aging infrastructure deteriorates further, and huge investment may be needed to maintain the infrastructure system.


The government data indicates that the infrastructure improvement ratio by category is as follows, yet we have noted a serious delay in their progress.

Bridge/tunnel/sewage/medical facilities/waste treatment facility   60%

Welfare facility   39.3%

Public housing   26%


In Tokyo, the road expansion is slow because of the landowner’s agreement. The Old apartment buildings and empty houses may need to be addressed in the future.


7.  Compact City

To summarize, Prof. Nemoto of the Toyo University proposes a compact city that would promote high residential density, an efficient public transportation system, and consolidation of public facilities. This idea will reduce the costs of the infrastructure.

These issues reflect the challenges that Japan may need to address the future natural disasters.

Source:  Nikkei newspaper, Jan.29 Issue,