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Disaster Prevention Rsearch Institute Kyoto University | DPRI

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History and Outstanding Features

Of all the earthquakes of magnitude 6.0 and above experienced in the world, around 20% have their epicenter in the seas surrounding Japan’s coasts. This figure was announced in a White Paper on Disaster Management released by Japan’s Cabinet Office in 2010. The Japanese archipelago lies over the meeting point of four tectonic plates, and the movement of these plates into and over each other is what causes the earthquakes for which Japan is well known. There is only one other place in the world where four tectonic plates meet; the Isthmus of Panama.

Japan is an island nation, with seas on all four sides, leaving it vulnerable to tsunami. Worse still is the fact that much of Japan has ria, or sawtooth, coastline, which can cause a tsunami wave to rise to greater heights than predicted, resulting in greater levels of damage; such cases have occurred multiple times in the past.

Moreover, Japan is a region of considerable volcanic activity, the result of its location on the Pacific Ring of Fire. It is also located on a latitude band prone to tropical depression, exposing it to multiple typhoons every year, many of which cause significant damage. 

It is clear, then, that Japan is a country vulnerable to natural disaster. The earliest written record of the incidence of earthquake in Japan dates back to the 5th century, and subsequent historical records are littered with references to earthquake, volcanic eruption, and tsunami.

It is perhaps no surprise that Japan, as ‘superpower’ nation when it comes to natural disaster, has a long history of research into the occurrence and prevention of natural disaster.

Japanese research in this field is markedly advanced when compared to other nations, and Japan also boasts an impressive body of data related to natural disaster occurrence. For example, detailed data on tectonic plate movement is taken on a daily basis, and efforts are underway to make good use of this data in earthquake prediction. 

Research on typhoons is also advanced in Japan, where aeronautical satellites make it possible to conduct detailed measurement and analysis of the constantly changing path and scale of a typhoon; this allows more disaster prevention infrastructure to function more efficiently, with an accurate idea of when the typhoon will actually hit.

Japan’s disaster prevention research is the most advanced in the world, and the Disaster Prevention Research Institute (DPRI) of Kyoto University is where the boundaries of research in this field are being pushed the furthest.

The DPRI tackles disaster prevention studies — traditionally focused on earthquake and volcanic eruption — from multiple perspectives, encompassing typhoon, flood, landslides, and other disasters. Research begins by examining the mechanisms of disaster occurrence, and widens to include technological development focused on disaster prediction and prevention, disaster response in the immediate aftermath of natural disaster, and improvement of reconstruction and recovery efforts.
The DPRI is characterized by its holistic approach to natural disaster research.