How to find earthquake-proof houses in Japan?

One of the things people often connect with Japan are the common earthquakes. Because it is sitting along the Pacific Ring of Fire, you can expect to see earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanos here. World Risk Index even placed Japan as the 15th highest natural disaster risk country on their 2013 list. This is why people sometimes think twice when moving to Japan. However, the development of technology means the architecture is improving as well. And Japan needed to build houses that can withstand strong earthquakes. Nowadays, the risk of buildings collapsing in Japan due to earthquakes is extremely low. Here’s how to find earthquake-proof houses in Japan.

The law changes to provide earthquake-proof houses in Japan

A gavel, signifying how law ensures earthquake-proof houses in Japan.
The law keeps changing for your safety.

There are many factors that influence an earthquake in Japan. The ground itself has an obviously huge part to play in a forming of an earthquake, but that’s not all. There is also the shape of the land and the building density that the builders (and prospective homeowners) need to think about.

In order for everyone to be able to live in an earthquake-resistant home, the Japanese law officials had to set various different standards for earthquake-proofing houses. One of the most important is the Building Standard Act – which gets revisions every time there is a large earthquake happening in Japan. This way, there are always innovations in the law, and the buildings become more and more secure.

Because of these revisions, there are different “generations” of buildings in Japan. The “oldest” generation you can find is the 2nd generation. The previous buildings are simply called “constructed before 1971”. There are a couple of different buildings to pick from:

  • the 2nd generation earthquake-proof houses in Japan (from 1971 to 1981),
  • the 3rd generation buildings started in 1981,
  • the buildings built after the 1995 review of the law,
  • the 4th generation of houses built after 2000 and finally
  • the houses built after 2009 (with more revisions of the law).

In order to find earthquake-proof houses in Japan, you should know some information about each generation of buildings. You can read more about them here, online, or you can also talk with your moving services in Japan, too!

The 2nd generation of earthquake-proof houses in Japan

The first changes in law happened after the terrible earthquake off the shore of Tokachi in 1968. The reinforced concrete structure standards (RC standards) tightened in order to increase building safety.

The 3rd generation

The 3rd generation of buildings is those that requested approval after June 1st, 1981. Three years prior, in 1978, an earthquake took place off the shore of Miyagi Prefecture. It prompted a revision of the Building Standard Act, as well as the inclusion of the New Anti-seismic Design Code. The focus of these was not only to prevent buildings from collapsing during earthquakes, though. Their goal was also to secure people inside them, and make them safe during these crisis situations.

As a comparison, before the inclusion of the New Anti-Seismic Design Code, the buildings needed to withstand an earthquake of score 5 on the JMA Seismic Intensity Scale. After, the buildings were able to resist an earthquake of at least score 6 on the same scale.

The reform of 1995

There came another revision after the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in 1995. This is when the Act for Promotion of Renovation for Earthquake-Resistant Structures came to pass. The Act’s main focus, however, isn’t the new buildings. It promoted creating earthquake-proof houses in Japan out of those already existing. Buildings larger than a certain size were assessed and renovated based on their structure (whether they were residential, commercial or buildings for warehousing in Japan). They all now fall under the same regulations of the New Anti-Seismic Design Code.

A Japanese mountain.
Japan is a beautiful country plagued by earthquakes.

The 4th generation of earthquake-proof houses in Japan

After 1995, there were two revisions of the law. The first was in 2000 when the government revised the Building Standard Act once more. This time, the focus was on improving the safety of wooden buildings, as well as clarifying anti-seismic performance level, specifications and building foundation forms.

After that, in 2009, there came the Licensed Architect Act revision. This happened because there were some illegal activities in 2005 connected to the structural information of buildings. The Act now requires that only 1st class registered architects can build buildings larger than a certain size.

Check what material the house is made of

The date of building construction is not the only thing to look into when finding a house in Japan that can withstand an earthquake. You should also look at the material it is made of. Anyone who wants to rent or buy a property in Japan can request this information by law. There are four types of materials you can have:

Wood and steel bars which are used when building a house.
Ask about the materials your house was made of.
  1. wood,
  2. steel,
  3. reinforced concrete and
  4. steel reinforced concrete.

When building with wood, the core parts of a building are posts and beams. In Japan, you can find wood materials in detached houses.

For larger buildings, architects go with something other than wood. Steel, for example, is a suitable choice. These materials have steel in their framework, to enforce the stability of the building.

When it comes to the reinforced concrete (or RC), these materials have concrete with iron reinforcing bars inside of them. Both the bars and the steel frame play a part in the building’s integrity. The bars are there to strengthen the concrete part with their resistance to stretching, while the concrete part is firm enough not to compress under the building’s weight.

Finally, high-rise buildings in Japan not often use the steel reinforced concrete (or the STC). These buildings have not only iron bars in the concrete, but also iron frames to reinforce it even more. These all serve to build seismic resistance and make buildings solid and durable.


Finally, you cannot find good, earthquake-proof houses in Japan without the help of professional Japan movers. They can be a great resource for you. When buying or renting a home, look carefully at the paperwork, and discuss with both your real estate agent (if you have one) and the moving company representative. This way, you will make an informed decision about your new house. Good luck!

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