Place Names and Natural Disasters in Japan

Reference work entry


Since the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami and a couple of major landslides such as the Hiroshima landslides of 2014, many popular books and magazines discuss the relationship between place names and disasters in Japan; old place names warn people of the danger of places. For example, place names that include Chinese characters of jya (meaning: snake) and nuku (meaning: passing through) have potential for landslides. As Japan experiences more intensive rainfall due to global warming, more attention is given to place names as a predictor of natural disasters.

This research is an exploratory study on place names that refer to natural disasters. First, I briefly discuss types of knowledge (local vs. scientific) to highlight the nature of knowledge on places named for disaster. Second, I look at the trend of publication on the topic which endorses the growing interest among the public especially after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. Here, I review the existing literature in both academic and nonacademic publications. Then, I discuss my findings from surveys and interviews administered to real estate companies and agents who are stakeholders and believed to be knowledge holders on the issue. In a sense, this study tries to look at the relationship of nature–language–society.


Place names Natural disaster Local knowledge Scientific knowledge Hazard maps Real estate agents 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.College of Asia Pacific StudiesRitsumeikan Asia Pacific UniversityBeppuJapan

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