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The 2024 Noto Earthquake 1

As readers of this blog are probably aware, unless they are reading this post some time in the future, there was a serious earthquake in Japan on January 1st. I, my family, and my friends are all fine, because we live on the other side of Japan, but the Noto Peninsula, on the Japan Sea, and neighbouring areas were badly affected; as of the time of writing, the death toll is over 200, and is likely to rise a bit more — although hopefully not much.

Jinja Shinpō’s first articles on the damage were in the January 15th issue, because there was no January 8th issue. (Jinja Shinpō is published four times per month, on Mondays, and when there are five Mondays in the month it takes one off. There is a January 1st issue no matter what day of the week that is.) The earthquake was, of course, the main news on the front page.

However, even with over a week having passed, the available information was very limited. Ishikawa Prefectural Jinjachō had managed to confirm that all the priests (and their families) in the seriously affected areas were still alive, and had photographs of some of the damage. However, transport in the area is still very restricted (as of January 15th, there were still 15 areas, with 415 residents, that were inaccessible by road, according to NHK), and the Jinjachō did (and does) not yet have a clear picture of the impact. There are 440 jinja in the most-affected area, and it is reasonable to suppose that all of them have been damaged to some extent. However, the overwhelming majority do not have resident priests, and the chief priests are earthquake victims themselves, so they have not been able to check the condition of all their jinja.

Jinja Honchō is consulting with the Jinjachō about support, and some staff will be sent to help. I imagine that they will be working on distributing supplies and assessing damage to jinja, but in the meeting with Jinja Honchō, the head of the Jinjachō asked that the Shinto community not send any support just yet. Transport around the peninsula was still so limited that they would not be able to get it to where it was needed. They have now finished setting up to receive financial donations, although that page contains a note that the money will not be distributed until they have determined which jinja are damaged and to what extent. Until they know that, of course, the money cannot be distributed sensibly.

In short, two weeks after the earthquake, we still do not know what damage it did.

I am sure that I will be writing more about this as the situation becomes clearer, which is why there is a “1” in the title of this post.

Incidentally, because the earthquake happened on New Year’s Day, it also had an impact on some of the regular New Year events. A number of things were cancelled not because they couldn’t be held, but because the people running the events felt that they were inappropriate under the circumstances. Jinja Shinpō picked up two of them. First, the Tennō’s New Year appearances were cancelled. This was supposed to be the first year since the pandemic when they would happen as normal, so that was disappointing. Second, the Prime Minister’s New Year visit to Jingū, at Isë, was also cancelled. It should not surprise anyone with knowledge of the Shinto establishment that these were the cancellations they felt it was worth reporting.

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