Last week there was a big quake in Niigata, one that registered a 6.8 on the Japanese scale for measuring earthquake severity. 7.0 is the highest, I believe. So you can easily understand how strong this quake was.
It did a lot of damage and there were some fatalities, too. But the thing that has a lot of people worried is the damage to the world's largest nuclear power plant, where some radioactive water actually spilled into the sea. The authorities are cleaning up the mess, but you have to wonder how something like this could happen in a safety-obsessed nation like Japan.
Except in rare cases (sometimes involving contractors with yakuza ties), Japan is not a place where people half-ass construction projects. Or much of anything for that matter. Even a house renovation features an elaborate metal framework being constructed on the building's exterior and tarps being suspended all around the site. And as the only country to have been attacked with nuclear weapons, Japan is very sensitive about this particular topic.
The "Godzilla" films are a kitschy expression of Japan's nuclear-phobia, at least in terms of the superpowers' world-ending weaponry. But Kurosawa Akira's 1990 film Yume (Dreams) features a segment titled "Mt. Fuji in Red," where a nuclear power plant near Fuji experiences a melt-down and causes the great mountain itself to erupt in torrents of deadly radiation. It's nightmarish and apocalyptic and really hits home now that I live in the same prefecture.
So combined with quake-consciousness, it's surprising to me that not only did Japan put a nuclear power plant on a fault-line, but the authorities also didn't do enough to fortify it against damage.
In order to save face and restore public confidence, you can be sure the government will expend enormous effort in fixing this problem and cleaning up the mess. But it's something that probably could've been avoided, especially in a place that's so conscientious about doing the right things in the right time.