Japanese Social Media Panic After Psychic ‘Predicts’ Massive Earthquake

kochi city nankai trough

The city of Kochi on Shikoku's Pacific Coast. Kochi is one of the cities on Japan's Pacific Coast that will likely be devastated following a predicted Nankai Trough megaquake. Photo by Nevin Thompson.

A Japanese psychic's prediction that the southwestern coast of Japan will experience a massive earthquake on November 23 has gone viral on Japanese social media.

The psychic, Matsubara Teruko, gained minor internet fame in 2011 for “predicting” a massive temblor would hit the northeastern Japanese town of Rikuzentakata. Rikuzentakata was just one of many towns that was virtually destroyed by a large tsunami that devastated Japan's northeastern coast on March 11, 2011.

This time, Matsubara says the long-awaited Nankai Trough Megaquake will happen in just a few days.

Matsubara makes regular predictions about catastrophes, and her prediction that the massive Nankai doomsday quake will occur on November 23 gained traction in social media following an actual quake on November 19 centered in southern Wakayama—in the Nankai region.

While southern Wakayama is isolated and juts out into the Pacific Ocean, the quake was felt throughout the densely populated Kansai region, which includes the cities of Osaka and Kobe.

Earthquake in the Kansai region: #earthquakebulletin (circa 23:48)

Epicenter: Southern Wakayama; magnitude 5.4, at a depth of 60 kilometers, with a seismic intensity of 4.

(Is this the first time the Kansai region has felt such a serious quake?)

Online, people posted photos of some minor damage caused by the quake.

The term “Nankai trough” (南海トラフ) also started to trend across social media channels, including on Twitter, accompanied by rumors that an even bigger Nankai Trough megaquake would occur in less than a week, on November 23, 2016.

For some reason, someone predicting that the Nankai Trough megaquake will occur on November 23 has become a trending topic, and now everyone is asking me if it's actually going to happen.

— Nankai Trough Megaquake Alert Information

Experts suggest a massive Nankai Trough megaquake could occur at any time. The Nankai Trough is a subduction zone stretching for about 900 kilometers off Japan's southeast coast, from the Tokyo area to Shikoku. Historically, the subduction zone has been responsible for regular massive earthquakes and tsunamis.

The long-awaited Nankai Trough megaquake has the potential to devastate Tokyo as well as Japan's industrial heartland stretching along the coast. Much of Japan's isolated Pacific coastline, including the rural prefectures of Wakayama and Shikoku, would potentially be inundated by gigantic tsunami waves.

According to the rumors, the cataclysm is supposed to occur on “Black Wednesday”.

Warning: Black Wednesday approaches! The Nankai Trough megaquake will occur on November 23!?! This strange rumor has been spreading, and the internet is full of uneasy voices.

In short time, some Twitter users determined the rumor was started by Matsubara Teruko. Besides “predicting” the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Matsubara publishes a variety of self-help books with a spiritual or New Age sensibility.

The efforts of Twitter user Mori-san (もりさん) to get to the bottom of the gossip were noticed by Naver, a popular blogging platform with a focus on social media memes:

Hey, Naver published my tweet :)

Translation of original tweet: The same person who correctly predicted the 2011 Tohoku earthquake has now predicted a Nankai Trough earthquake will occur on November 23. Can we trust her prediction?

Matsubara's prediction tapped into fears that a massive Nankai Trough megaquake could be imminent. One tweet from October 21 that suggested megaquakes occur in a pattern — and that Nankai was next — was reshared again in light of Matsubara's claim of an impending quake:

Why is there such a fuss being made about a Nankai Trough megaquake happening on November 23? The reason is because Matsubara Teruko, who predicted the 3.11 Tohoku quake and the Kumamoto quake, has predicted “X-day” will occur on November 23, 2016.

Also, take a look at this image:

863 AD: Earthquake in [modern-day] Toyama and Niigata
869: Earthquake in sea off northern Japan
880: Earthquake in (modern day) Kumamoto
887: Nankai Trough megathrust quake

2007: Chu'etsu earthquake [in Niigata]
2011: Tohoku earthquake and tsunami
2016: Kumamoto earthquake
2016: Tottori earthquake [note: Tottori departs from the pattern]

Not everyone was convinced that November 23, 2016 will mark “Black Wednesday” and the long-dreaded Nankai Trough megathrust quake. A number of Twitter users shared an April 2016 article from a website called Chojogensho no nazotoki (超常現象の謎解き, “Solving the Riddle of Supernatural Phenomenon”) that debunked Matsubara's famous prediction of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake.

Matsubara Teruko, who predicted the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, is the perfect example of the saying “even a stopped clock is right twice a day.” Trust her predictions accordingly.

The article notes that Matsubara has predicted a massive earthquake will flatten just about every major city in just about every prefecture in Japan:

matsubara teruko

Part of a lengthy list of Japanese towns and cities Matsubara has predicted will experience a major earthquake sometime soon. Screencap from 超常現象の謎解き site.

Of the list and the accuracy of Matsubara's prediction of the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, Chojogensho no nazoki says:

松原氏は「東日本大震災を予言していた」と判断していいのだろうか?[…] そこで松原氏が震災以前に発表していた地震の予言を精査してみた。その結果をまとめたものが以下の表である。予言であげられていた地名の一覧だ。(2011年2月16日の予言は除く。2005年~2011年2月15日までの予言)



Can we really conclude that “Matsubara Teruko predicted the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami?” We decided to examine all of the places that Matsubara predicted would experience an earthquake leading up to the 2011 Tohoku disaster. We have published the results of our research in this list. Each locality that Matsubara predicted would experience an earthquake has been listed (we looked at predictions from 2005 to February 15, 2011).

If you look at this list, Matsubara's predictions covered all 47 Japanese prefectures. And localities are not mentioned just once, but several times. For example, the Tohoku region was mentioned 120 times in six years, starting in 2005. Starting in 2005, Matsubara's predictions mentioned the Kanto region [a large region in central Japan that includes Tokyo] more than 170 times.

Rikuzentakata and Kamaishi, both of which were featured in her 2011 Tohoku disaster predicition, had already been mentioned before 2005.

So “even a stopped clock tells the right time twice a day.”

If Matsubara's prediction about a November 23rd Nankai Trough megaquake is correct, Japan may be in for another devastating calamity. However, it's important to remember that not even the scientific community is sure if earthquake predictions are actually accurate at all.

Start the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.