Noto Peninsula earthquake experience January 1, 2024 (Reiwa 6)


I couldn’t even stand up for a sudden earthquake

My mother’s parents lived in Shika Town, Ishikawa prefecture, where my aunt and her husband currently reside. I had been back home with my parents and younger brother’s family since December 31 2023. On the evening of New Year’s Day, we were in the living room discussing that it was time to prepare a hot pot when the emergency earthquake alert on my cell phone went off. Immediately the whole house began to shake violently, and I thought, “No again…there was even earthquakes during the Obon Festival and now?!…”. “Get under the desk!” I yelled at the children, The children, still of elementary school age, immediately crawled under the floor desks. There was nowhere for the adults to hide, nor could they stand. We just held onto the shelves by our side wondering what would happen if the wooden house were to collapse. 


We hurriedly evacuated with my uncle who was crippled in fear of the tsunami

 ●After the evacuation, when I came home, there was a tsunami left on the road along the coast

The house managed to stay standing. As soon as the shaking halted, I shouted, “Put on your jacket! Put on your shoes, and get in the car!” to the children and they quickly rushed out of the house. My aunt’s house is about 30 meters from the sea, and I knew the tsunami could hit within five minutes so we had to hurry. I was so nervous my heart was pounding and hands shaking as I held my cell phone. I went to see my aunt and her husband who were in another room and they still seemed confused. “Get in the car, we’re evacuating!”, said My mother and I supported my aunt and uncle, who had difficulty walking, and we got into the car. All I had with me was a bag containing my cell phone and wallet, some plastic-bottled tea and snacks that I could see, and a banana. In front of our house, fallen tiles and the partially broken top block of the street wall. The road was cracked. 

I tried to evacuate to a nursing home during the aftershocks, but…

At first, we drove 5 minutes uphill from the sea to the nursing home where my uncle was taken care of and waited on the street. (it is a solid building and we hoped they would shelter us too, but it seemed it was far from it). There were many aftershocks but even as the car wobbled, but I told my children, “Even if it shakes, we will be safe here”. The car TV  repeatedly announned , “There is a tsunami warning,” and before I knew it, the sun was setting, and I thought, “I’m  glad the earthquake didn’t strike at nighttime”. Several other cars had also been evacuated. 


Anxiety about nuclear power plants and evacuation to power company employee dormitories

 ●At the evacuated employee dormitory. There are reports of damage on TV

After waiting for a while, we were evacuated to a Hokuriku Electric Power Company employee dormitory nearby. At the time, I remembered that there was a nuclear power plant nearby, but I dismissed my fears by saying, “It is not operating at the moment, so it will be fine”. The facility where we evacuated was built from  reinforced concrete, and I was relieved to find that they opened up a large common room which was heated. The toilet stopped flushing  after a while, but there was hot water from the bathtub which I was able to carry to the toilet and flush. Around 30-40 people were evacuated, and all that day we watched NHK’s coverage of the earthquake on TV. At night, the facility staff prepared onigiri (rice balls) to satisfy our hunger. The tsunami warning was downgraded to  a tsunami advisory at midnight, which was a bit of a relief. I gradually got used to the aftershocks, but could hardly sleep until morning. 

The damage of the tsunami and the state of home

 ●There was a tsunami left at the port

On the morning of the Jan 2nd, I went to check on the house. On the road along the coastline was one fish that had washed up from the sea. Fortunately, the tsunami did not reach our house. Inside the house, things from the Shinto altar had fallen and broken, and the kitchen was a mess with items having  falling off the shelves and broken glasses in the cupboards. My cousin in Toyama also rushed to the house, cleaned up, packed things to take to the evacuation site (food, towels, toothbrushes, etc.), and returned to the facility where we had taken refuge again. The tsunami advisory had been lifted and the house itself was not damaged, but I was not sure if we could go back to my house. Since the facility where we were evacuated was not an official evacuation site, supplies would not reach us. We were able to have rice balls that day with rice that someone had brought for us. 

Returning to Kyoto

We stayed at the evacuation site that night as well while  checking the road conditions so  we would be able to return to Kyoto. We left the evacuation site early the next morning to return to Kyoto. The motorway was closed in part of Shika Town, but the rest of the way to Kanazawa was open and the Hokuriku Expressway was clear, so we were able to return smoothly.

After and revisiting the uncle who needs nursing care 2

 ●Water outage continues at my parents’ house.

My aunt and her husband were still staying at the facility for the time being, but after we left, other people went home, so my aunt and her husband went home to. We were worried because the water supply had been cut and she was alone with my uncle who requires the nursing care (level 2). My mother said that we should have stayed behind. The next day, my cousin brought drinking water and toilet water to my aunt’s place. My cousin could not stay long, so my mother had to go back to Shika Town again. My aunt asked me to bring wet wipes, plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and a hand tub for flushing the toilet, so I procured these in Kyoto and my parents headed there in my father’s car. The next day, my father returned to Kyoto, but my mother remained in Shika Town for the time being. I don’t think she could come back until the water supply was resolved and my uncle’s day service started accepting people back . They say that everyone is doing well now, but I am afraid that they are getting tired and stressed as the days pass by since the earthquake. The bathing facilities in Shika Town have started to offer free bathing after Jan 6, with numbered tickets given out every morning at 8:00 a.m. for a limited time. My aunt and mother were finally able to take a bath, but my uncle was still unable to bathe due to lack of a  day service.

●Draw the mountain water

●Drinking water supply bags placed at the front door

●The water in the gutter is also saved in the bucket


Anxiety about nuclear power plants

I am scared to think what could have happened had the Shika Nuclear Power Plant would have been in operation. Surely they would not operate it anymore because of the frequency earthquakes that have been occurring in Noto, I thought.


Written by Chie Kawabata, living in Kyoto Prefecture

Translated by Masako Amemiya, Yuko MAKINO (Staffs)

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