Date: Tuesday, July 04, 2023 12:00 PM
Location: Temple University, Japan Campus (Access) 1-14-29 Taishido, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo, Japan 154-0004


  • Greg Smits (Penn State University)


Located at the boundaries of several tectonic plates, the Japanese islands are among the most seismically active regions on earth. From the late nineteenth century to the present, scientists and governments have endeavored to monitor this seismicity, understand it, and develop strategies for mitigation its potential to cause natural disasters. Some strategies have proven to be expensive failures and others have been highly effective. In this presentation, we examine several major earthquakes and earthquake-tsunami combinations with respect to their effect on scientific thinking and public policy: 1891 Nōbi (Mino-Owari); 1896 Meiji Sanriku; 1923 Great Kantō; 1933 Shōwa Sanriku; 1995 Great Hanshin (Kōbe); and 2011 Tōhoku. One overall argument is that spending resources on attempts to predict earthquakes, or even forecast them in a general way, has been ineffective, whereas infrastructure improvements and better building codes have been highly effective.

Date & Time:

Tuesday, July 4, 2023 12:00 (JST)

Webinar Access


Temple University, Japan Campus Room 208 (Access)


Registration is required (e-mail to An access link will be sent to you via email.


This event is organized by the Institute of Contemporary Asian Studies (ICAS).

Note: All ICAS events are held in English, open to the public, and admission is free unless otherwise noted.


Greg Smits

Penn State University

Greg Smits is Professor of History and Asian Studies at Penn State, College of Liberal Arts. He is a specialist in early modern East Asian intellectual history, the history of the Ryukyu Kingdom, and historical earthquakes in Japan and East Asia. His book Visions of Ryukyu: Identity and Ideology in Early Modern Thought and Politics has recently appeared in Japanese translation as Ryukyu no jigazo: kinsei Okinawa shisoshi (Ryukyu self-portraits: early modern Okinawan intellectual history), and his recent articles include “Examining the Myth of Ryukyuan Pacifism.”

He has published numerous articles on aspects of earthquakes and earthquake-related culture, including “ Namazu-e: Catfish Prints of 1855,” "Danger in the Lowground: Historical Context for the March 11, 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami," and "Conduits of Power: What the Origins of Japan’s Earthquake Catfish Reveal about Religious Geography." He is the author of the books When the Earth Roars: Lessons from the History of Earthquakes in Japan and Seismic Japan: The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake.

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