A number of organizations assist the Japanese government in the prediction of large earthquakes. The Mainichi answers common questions readers may have about these groups.
Question: What earthquake-predicting organizations help the government?
Answer: The national government's Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion, the Japan Meteorological Agency director-general's private advisory group "Jishin Bosai Taisaku Kyoka Chiiki Hanteikai" (earthquake disaster-prevention countermeasure strengthening area evaluation association), and the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan director-general's private advisory group, the Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction, Japan, all assist the government.
Q: What do these organizations do?
A: The Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion organizes studies and research. Its subordinate organization "Jishin Chosa Iinkai" (earthquake study committee) uses research results and other data to calculate the likelihood of earthquakes in areas around the country, and it publically releases these predictions.
Jishin Bosai Taisaku Kyoka Chiiki Hanteikai is an organization for predicting the Tokai Earthquake, and it evaluates whether movements in the crust in the Tokai Region are a predictor of an earthquake.
The Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction, Japan is a collection of research institutions and universities for scientifically studying earthquake predictions.
Q: When were these organizations established?
A; The Coordinating Committee for Earthquake Prediction, Japan's secretariat was set up under the Geospatial Information Authority of Japan in 1969. Jishin Bosai Taisaku Kyoka Chiiki Hanteikai was set up in 1979 after the passage of the Act on Special Measures Concerning Countermeasures for Large-Scale Earthquakes, which was created with prediction of the Tokai Earthquake in mind. The Headquarters for Earthquake Research Promotion was created in 1995, after it was judged that research results on earthquake prediction had not been effectively utilized ahead of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake.
Q: Is it really possible to predict earthquakes?
A: The national government holds that the only predictable earthquake is the Tokai Earthquake, but says that there are also cases where it would be unable to predict such. As for other earthquakes that could strike Japan, today's science would struggle to predict them. (Answers by Kazuki Iida, Science & Environment News Department)