Nearly 100% of Japan’s public elementary and middle school buildings meet earthquake safety standards


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In 2002, 44.5% of Japanese public school buildings were earthquake-proof. By 2018, after the great east Japan earthquake in 2011, that rate had risen to 99%. However, the government’s goal of 100% has not yet been achieved.

A follow-up survey carried out by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sport, Science and Technology (MEXT) on the status of the seismic retrofitting of public school facilities in the 2021 financial year (status April 1) showed that 99.6% of the 114,410 primary and secondary school buildings, gyms and other facilities across Japan have been retrofitted against earthquakes with seismic intensity of 6 or higher, an increase of 0.2 percentage points over the previous year.

88 municipalities have not yet completed earthquake protection, 33 fewer than in the previous year. The number of elementary and middle school buildings that are not yet earthquake-proof decreased by 230 to 444, of which 91 are at high risk of collapse in an earthquake of intensity 6 or higher.

School seismic retrofitting is based on the New Seismic Standard, which was enacted in June 1981 after the 1978 Miyagi earthquake – an earthquake with an intensity of 5 on the Japanese scale that severely damaged buildings in the city of Sendai. The new standard required houses to be strong enough not to collapse in an earthquake with a seismic intensity of 6 or 7.

The subsequent Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake (1995) and the Great East Japan Earthquake (2011) reaffirmed the need for earthquake-proof public schools that could serve as evacuation centers in the event of a disaster, resulting in construction in communities across the country.

The nationwide breakdown shows that 19 prefectures, including Miyagi, Akita, Tochigi, Saitama, Chiba, Kyoto, and Kumamoto, have an earthquake safety rate of 100% for school buildings, while the lowest rate was in Okinawa Prefecture at 96.8%.

Earthquake resistance rates for other types of public schools have all increased year-over-year, including a 0.8 point increase to 97.1% in kindergartens, a 0.2 point increase to 99.1% in high schools, and an increase of 0.1 points to 99.7% of special schools.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo © Pixta.)

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