13 March 2012

Earthquake and tsunami in Japan – one year on

11 March 2012 marked the one-year anniversary of the earthquake (Great East Japan Earthquake) that occurred in the Pacific Ocean east of the coastal city of Sendai on Japan’s largest island of Honshu [1].

The earthquake that measured 9.0 on the Richter scale generated large tsunami waves affecting the north-eastern coast of Honshu. Several strong aftershocks also occurred off the coast of Iwate, Miyagi and Ibaraki Prefectures. As a result of the earthquake, tsunami, and disruption to electrical services, several explosions occurred at the Fukushima nuclear power plant 150 miles north of Tokyo, with radiation release.

As of February 2012, over 15,800 people have died in the disaster, 6,000 were injured and more than 3,200 people are missing [2]. A total 343,000 people were evacuated and are still living in temporary accommodation [2].

A restricted area encompassing a 20km radius from the Fukushima nuclear power plant remains in place as well as several evacuation areas [3]. See map of restricted and evacuation areas.

Japanese authorities are working to limit radiation levels around the plant, and are removing fuel from the plant and decontaminating the area. Atmospheric radiation readings are being measured daily and foodstuffs inspected for radiation.

Advice for travellers

Travellers to Japan are advised to check with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) for current advice.

As of 12 March 2012, the FCO continues to advise against travel to areas of northeast Japan affected by the earthquake, including coastal areas of Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi and evacuation areas identified by the Japanese authorities [4]. Travel to within a 20km radius of the Fukushima nuclear power plant is prohibited.

Sendai airport, badly damaged by the tsunami, has been restored and is now operating normally [2]. Emergency restoration measures have been completed on the Tohoku expressway resulting in the lifting of traffic restrictions [2].  However, areas of Fukushima, Iwate, and Miyagi prefectures continue to experience disruptions to residential, business, and transport infrastructure. 


1. National Travel Health Network and Centre. Earthquake and tsunami in Japan. 11 March 2011. [Accessed 12 March 2012]. Available at:


2. Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet. Road to recovery. 1 March 2012. [Accessed 12 March 2012]. Available at:


3. Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Restricted area, deliberate evacuation area and regions including specific spots recommended for evacuation (as of September 30, 2011). [Accessed 12 March 2012]. Available at:

4. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Japan travel advice. Updated 10 February 2012. [Accessed 12 March 2012]. Available at: