Six months after Kumamoto Prefecture and its neighboring areas were hit by a series of powerful earthquakes, support for people who lost their homes in the deadly temblors remains an ongoing challenge. The Kumamoto quakes serve as yet another reminder that we need to think hard about how to bolster defenses against quakes to minimize the damage they cause.

Last month, the national government started its review of the Law on Special Measures Concerning Countermeasures for Large-Scale Earthquakes, which is based on the assumption that a Tokai earthquake — a major temblor long forecast to hit Shizuoka Prefecture and its adjacent areas — is predictable. But instead of expending a large amount of effort and resources on a goal that may be impossible to attain — it is still very difficult to predict quakes — the government should focus on strengthening defenses against powerful temblors.

A key lesson highlighted by the Kumamoto quakes was the vulnerability of houses and buildings that are located on or close to an active fault. In the town of Mashiki, which, along with the village of Nishihara, registered temblors of the maximum 7 on the Japanese scale of seismic intensity, most of the badly damaged houses were built directly on active faults in the Futagawa fault zone, where the quakes were focused.