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The 2024 Noto Earthquake 2

As expected, Jinja Shinpō has continued to report on the Noto earthquake. NHK news has also been covering it; the new problem is heavy snowfall, which might bring damaged buildings down and is hindering recovery efforts, as well as putting people in evacuation centres at risk of hypothermia. It sounds as though the authorities have set up to make it possible for everyone in evacuation centres to move temporarily to hotels in safer areas, but that means leaving their homes behind for an unknown period of time, so most have not moved yet.

Focusing on the effect on jinja, most of the damage was in four prefectures. Ishikawa Prefecture was hit the hardest, but Niigata, Toyama, and Fukui Prefectures all have areas close to the epicentre. All have some reports of damage, and expect to get more when priests can inspect all of their jinja. The snow, added to damage to the roads, is making that hard, and the Jinjachō do not expect full information for some time. They have set up online reporting methods, because people are more likely to be able to get online than access postal services or telephones in many areas. (There is a column remarking on this change, and on how it is much easier to check that people are safe than it was in the Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake 29 years ago.)

As roads have started to open, the Jinjachō have started distributing supplies, some of which had been stockpiled as part of the disaster preparedness measures introduced after the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. Jinja Honchō has also launched an appeal to all jinja in unaffected areas to raise money for reconstruction, as well as sending ¥3 million to Ishikawa Prefectural Jinjachō immediately. They also sent two staff members on the 12th, both to help and to take the money. They immediately started helping to distribute supplies.

On January 11th and 12th, Jinja Shinpō gathered information from more than twenty jinja in Nanao City, in Ishikawa Prefecture, and Himi City, in Toyama Prefecture. Both of these cities are on the Noto peninsula: Nanao is around the centre, while Himi is at the point where it joins the mainland. The worst affected areas are beyond Nanao, but the damage in these areas is still serious. At all the jinja, the stone fences, torii, lanterns, or koma-inu had fallen over, and some of the sanctuaries had collapsed completely. Other buildings looked fine, but had been declared hazardous by the prefectural inspectors.

The jinja in Nanao were affected by both general problems, and issues unique to jinja. At one jinja, the building that normally covers and shields the main sanctuary has collapsed, and the chief priest thinks that it could be a month before they can even start clearing it away. The main sanctuary collapsed at another jinja, scattering the ritual implements stored there, and the chief priest said that this jinja had been more damaged than any of the others he was responsible for. On the other hand, another jinja escaped with minor damage, but has had to cancel the ceremony to burn old ofuda, because there is just too much risk of a fire getting out of control at the moment. Finally, at still another jinja, the ground liquefied during the earthquake, with geysers of muddy water, and the part-time miko ran to the evacuation centre still in their vestments. Fortunately, no-one there was injured.

In Himi, most of the report was from one chief priest. He displays a large hand-painted ema with that year’s zodiacal animal on it at the jinja every year, and lots of people come to see it and take photographs with it, so the precincts were very crowded when the earthquake hit. The lanterns and torii were shaking violently, so he shouted for people to get out of the precincts, but a lot of people couldn’t move because of the movement of the ground. The jinja is also close to the coast, so when the tsunami alert was issued, the chief priest headed for the nearest evacuation centre. It was already full, so he went to another one, but that one didn’t have enough blankets, so he spent the night in his car. He was back home by the 12th, but sleeping under a table in case of aftershocks. He mentioned that many of the jinja he was responsible for had been damaged, with torii and lanterns falling over, including one where the precincts had just been redone.

It is clear that the damage was very extensive, and restoring the jinja will take years, and large amounts of money. It is likely to be some weeks before anyone can even seriously start on the process.

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