July 21, 2024

Japan is an absolute cracker of a travel destination, with everything from 24-hour cities and hot springs to idyllic countryside and beaches. However, the country’s islands occupy a patch on the western edge of the Ring of Fire, so the country is prone to natural disasters. In 2011, a 9 magnitude earthquake triggered an extremely damaging tsunami, which killed around 18,000 people. 

On Monday, January 1, a 7.6 magnitude earthquake struck the west coast of the main island of Honshu, with a shallow depth of only 10km. Hundreds of buildings have been destroyed, and there have been numerous aftershocks. The death toll currently stands at 64.

Here is everything you need to know about travelling to Japan after the earthquakes and tsunami warnings.

Is it safe to travel to Japan? 

It’s not safe to travel to the affected areas; namely western coastal areas including Niigata, Toyama, and Ishikawa. A series of major earthquakes began Monday morning (January 1), with one that registered a magnitude of 7.6. The earthquakes have so far killed at least 64 people. 1,000 army personnel have tried to begin rescue operations in the Noto Peninsula, which is the worst affected area, but damage and blocked roads have been a hindrance. 

There’s lots more advice on safety measures on the Japan National Tourism Agency website here. 

Is it safe to travel to Tokyo following the earthquake? 

Tokyo is 300km from the west coast, which is where the earthquake struck, though it’s been reported that buildings in the capital still experienced shaking. However, with Tokyo located on the east coast, travelling to the Japanese capital has not been advised against. 

At around 6pm local time on Tuesday, January 2, a passenger plane collided with a coast guard aircraft at Tokyo Haneda airport, and five of the six members of the coast guard have died. The airport has since resumed flights.  

What about Osaka? 

There is little news of the impact of the earthquakes on Osaka. The city is around 350km from the Noto peninsula, on the eastern end of the Inland Sea, the opposite side of Honshu island to the epicentre of the quake. There’s no advice recommending against travelling to Osaka at this time.

Where was impacted by the earthquake in Japan? 

The area affected the most is the Noto Peninsula on the coast of the Ishikawa Prefecture. At least 15 people died in Wajima city, which was still experiencing fires at 7am local time on Tuesday morning, and more than 100 buildings were destroyed. 

Asachi-dori Street, an area known for its wooden buildings, was the worst affected patch. Nanao city was also affected. According to the UK Foreign Office website, ‘the affected areas include the Sea of Japan coast in: Ishikawa, Yamagata, Niigata, Toyama, Fukui, Hyogo, Hokkaido, Aomori, Akita, Kyoto, Tottori and Shimane prefectures, plus Iki & Tsushima Islands.’

Is there still a tsunami warning in place? 

Japan experienced a minor tsunami after the earthquake on Monday, though as of Tuesday morning, tsunami warnings have been lifted. The Japan Meteorological Agency’s latest prediction indicates a slight sea level change – that’s the lowest level warning on their scale. 

What are your rights if you’ve booked a trip to Japan? 

Travel insurance often includes cancellation cover should your trip be impacted by a natural disaster, but it’s best to check directly with your insurance provider. 

What is the UK Foreign Office’s travel advice? 

A statement on the UK Foreign Office website reads: ‘A series of earthquakes hit the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture on January 1 2024, causing minor tsunami, several fires and significant infrastructure damage in various parts of Ishikawa Prefecture. Further aftershocks remain a possibility and transport links are disrupted. If you are in the affected areas, please follow the instructions from the local authorities and check the latest information on NHK World news.’ 

Have flights been cancelled? 

As of Monday night (January 1), All Nippon Airways had cancelled 15 flights, and Japan Airlines had cancelled nine. According to Japan News, all flights at Noto airport, which is located in the affected peninsula, were cancelled yesterday (January 2).

Why does Japan have so many earthquakes? 

According to the BBC, Japan accounts for 20 percent of earthquakes which have a magnitude of 6 or more. Japan’s islands sit on top of the meeting of four tectonic plate boundaries (North American, Eurasian, Pacific and Philippines Sea), meaning it is particularly prone to natural disasters like earthquakes and tsunamis – seismometers record an event of some kind every five minutes, on average. 

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