6 Weeks On: BCCJ Visit to Noto Peninsula

Written by Sam Maddicott
February 21, 2024


Written by Sam Maddicott
February 21, 2024

Few countries have proven to be more resilient in the face of a natural disaster than Japan. From an uptick in extreme weather conditions, to its geographical positioning in the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan has experienced countless disasters over over recent decades. Despite this, when events like what occurred on January 1 take place, they have a habit of catching us all of us off-guard.

Since news broke of the Noto Peninsula earthquake, there has been an impressive global outpouring of support from all corners of the earth. At the BCCJ, we were very much moved to see the community proactively reaching out, looking to lend a helping hand. To share a few examples, the Japan Association of Translators (of which BCCJ member Phil Robertson of Honyaku Plus is a Director) offered translation and remote interpreting free of charge to those affected by the earthquake, Unilever were keen to provide skincare, sanitation and hygiene products, and then there were individual efforts such as that of Peter Harris who raised 350,000JPY running the Yamaneko Marathon in Iriomote (Congratulations, Peter!)

As a Chamber, we were keen to explore how we might be able to pull together our collective resources and send a message of support to the region. Fortunately, we were able to do this through opening a dialogue with local contacts in Wajima and Kanazawa, courtesy of BCCJ member, Taisuke Yokota of Camping with Soul.

Travelling to the Noto Peninsula was at first not recommended. It was critical to avoid unnecessary travel which could congest the limited road access connecting the peninsula with the rest of the island. Therefore, January was a matter of encouraging donations through trusted sources as listed on the Chamber’s ‘Noto Peninsula Earthquake: Updates and Support‘ page, as well as providing a channel for key updates in English.

However, a few weeks ago, we received an invitation from the Wajima Chamber of Commerce to visit. We jumped at the opportunity. A mission was designed around creating an exchange between local authorities in Ishikawa and the international business community, exploring B2B initiatives to help small businesses get back on their feet, and to identify other areas that our membership might be able to support.

Not to arrive empty-handed, we reached out to BCCJ community in case any organisations might like to donate luxury products (we were informed that basic food and drink were already in good supply). Our call was met, and we would like to thank Unilever, HSBC, Swan & Lion, Montmartre, Decima, Tan Y Castell, Kent Crisps and Ealing Christian Centre Japan for coming up with the goods, and in quantity too. Next up to save the day, we would like to offer our thanks to Jaguar Land Rover for providing us with a Defender 130, not only large enough to carry the ample stock we had amounted, but also navigate disjointed roads and a variety of terrain.



Our initial attempt to reach Wajima on February 8 wasn’t a success. Following an 8 hour drive, we were met by a barrage of ‘Road Closed’ signs and as night began to fall, decided to call it a day and head to the nearby town of Shika which seemed to be acting as a rest stop for many relief workers. We learned here of a possible route that would take us to where we needed to be, essentially bypassing an ‘Emergency and Authorized Vehicle Only’ sign. The next morning, we duly obliged.

Driving to Wajima, I don’t think we were prepared for the scale of the devastation. The 2 hour drive up to Wajima was a constant reminder of the sheer scale of damage and the task ahead. It has been estimated that 55,000 houses had been destroyed or badly damaged, and that was evident. Entire buildings were flattened, remains of broken landslide barriers were occasionally visible and a new shoreline was left exposed across the coast.

On arriving in Wajima, we visited the main food distribution centre which was abuzz with volunteers and staff from Hokkaido to Kita-Kyushu. The whole operation was incredibly well organised and the warehouse was abundant with stock, which it had to be. Whilst a large number of residents have moved to stay with family or temporary housing elsewhere in Japan, many have chosen to stay close for a variety of reasons. It is estimated that as of February 6, 14,000 people were staying in evacuation centres, and nearly 3,000 in badly damaged homes–many people relying on such centres for daily essentials.

Despite the surroundings, the mood was one of optimism and togetherness. One smartly dressed man who ran a taxi company in a nearby town told us with a beaming smile that he cannot wait for the day that he will be driving tourists around. We soon moved from the devastated Wajima Morning Market, which just a few months ago was revered as one of the largest in Japan, over to the make-do office of the Wajima Chamber of Commerce.

Our Wajima counterparts, most of whom are living in nearby shelters openly shared their own horror stories with all the casualness of a watercooler conversation about what you ate for breakfast. It became evident that any B2B business initiative would need to wait at least a year. For now, what’s needed is construction workers, engineers, electricians, anyone who can directly support with restoring the critically damaged infrastructure. Having concluded our meeting which was joined online by BCCJ President, Richard Lyle and Executive Committee member, Kentaro Kiso, we shared some tea, scones and curry whilst speaking about our hopes for what was to come in the years ahead.

The rest of the day was spent visiting shelters and food stalls in Wajima and Anamizu, emptying our cargo load of tea, scones, welsh cakes, crisps, noodles, whilst speaking with some of those warmest and friendliest people you could ever hope to meet. Needless to say, it did not take long before our car trunk was empty. Again, I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who donated, it truly meant the world to a lot of people!

And with that, it was time to bid farewell and begin the journey back to Tokyo.

More information: BCCJ Noto Peninsula Earthquake: Updates and Support 
Contact: [email protected]
More photos: BCCJ Flickr



Volunteering Opportunities

To register as a volunteer, please follow the links on this page. Please note that volunteers need to undergo a pre-registration process, and may require insurance depending on the type of work you wish to engage in. Volunteering centres across Noto are run independently, with information in Japanese.

Sending Supplies

Large-scale donations from companies and organisations are still being accepted from this page. Please note. Ishikawa is not currently accepting donations from individuals, and it is not recommended to directly transport items without prior approval.


  • Ishikawa Prefectural Fund
    Please follow the guidelines instructions as listed on the official donations Page: https://www.pref.ishikawa.lg.jp/suitou/gienkinr0601.html
  • Wajima Chamber of Commerce:
    輪島支店 323
    普通預金 1002432
    名義 輪島商工会議所 会頭 久岡政治