On Jan. 1, I wasn’t in Ishikawa Prefecture. I was about 80 kilometers away, as the crow flies, in the eastern half of Toyama Prefecture, which seems largely to have escaped the death, damage and destruction that the area west of the prefectural capital and beyond saw as a result of the 7.6 magnitude quake that struck the Noto Peninsula that day.

Writing now from my home in Tokyo, it seems almost crass to highlight my own experience of the quake when I can see that countless other people had it so much worse. But of course that is with hindsight. At the time, nobody knew.

New Year’s Day in Toyama Prefecture was glorious. After visiting a family friend for lunch in the next town, my partner and I walked home along the coast — a beautiful 6-kilometer stroll that provides views right across Toyama Bay to as far as Ishikawa Prefecture’s Noto Peninsula. On a clear day like that, it’s truly stunning, and when you come back inland you walk among the rice fields that make up a large portion of the belt of land between the bay and the Tateyama mountains.