Natural Hazards

, Volume 68, Issue 2, pp 631–643 | Cite as

Identification and possible recurrence of an oversized tsunami on the Pacific coast of northern Japan

  • Koji MinouraEmail author
  • Shin-ichi Hirano
  • Tsutomu Yamada
Original Paper


Geological evidence of severe tsunami inundation has been discovered in northern Japan. In the dune fields of Shimokita, in northernmost Tohoku, we have found two distinctive sand layers that are tsunami deposits. The run-up height of >20 m and inland inundation of at least 1.4 km are notably larger than any known historical case in Japan. The tsunami-genic earthquake that resulted in these deposits is thought to have taken place in the Kuril Forearc-Trench system nearly 700 years ago. The recurrence interval of major tsunamis originating in the Kuril subduction zone is about 400 years. Given that the most recent unusually large earthquake took place in AD 1611 (corresponding to the Keicho earthquake tsunami), the findings presented here increase the potential and hazard for an outsized tsunami striking the Pacific coast of northern Japan.


Tsunami deposit Traction carpet Rip-up clast Tsunami backwash Tsunami recurrence interval 



J. Bourgeois and B. Atwater gave us comments on the sedimentology and chronology of tsunami deposits. We greatly appreciate the useful suggestions of two anonymous reviewers. This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (No. 23310118).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Koji Minoura
    • 1
    Email author
  • Shin-ichi Hirano
    • 1
  • Tsutomu Yamada
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of ScienceTohoku UniversitySendaiJapan

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