On January 17, 1995, a massive M7 earthquake hit Japan’s Hyogo prefecture. This event, which became known as Great Hanshin or Kobe Earthquake, caused catastrophic damage to buildings and infrastructure in the city of Kobe and surrounding areas and caused the deaths of approximately 6,400 people.
The earthquake caused severe damage to the Hanshin Expressway route #3, the major highway running through the city of Kobe, including the complete collapse of 635 meters of viaduct, with images of the collapsed section becoming iconic as news media shared the story around the world. The damage rendered the highway impassable along much of its 24.5-mile (39.4-kilometer) length. The newer Wangan Route 5 highway running along the coast fared better, though bridges along the route suffered significant damage.
The rebuilding and upgrading of the highways took 20 months, the work of 2.5 million people, 93,000 tons of steel, 70,000 square meters of concrete, and cost 222 billion Yen (equivalent to approximately $1.6 billion USD).
The Hanshin Expressway Earthquake Museum started in 1999 as a warehouse for damaged material and structural segments from the two expressways, preserving them as samples for use by researchers, engineers, and students. After a major refurbishment in 2009, the museum has been open to visits by the general public on four days every month, with the stated aim of passing on experience and knowledge to future generations, preserving samples for future study, and sharing information to prevent future disasters.
The museum’s exhibits include sections of steel superstructure and large bearings from the damaged bridges, sections of damaged steel and reinforced concrete highway piers, models and photographs, and technical explanations of the damage done to the highway and the repairs carried out. The museum guides are retired highway engineers who took part in the rebuilding project, they are extremely knowledgeable about both the exhibits and the rebuilding project and are happy to answer questions and explain the importance of the exhibits.
Know Before You Go
Open on 1st and 3rd Wednesdays and Sundays. Booking needed. 30 minutes on foot from Hanshin Fukae Station.
Minimal English. If you do not speak Japanese, take an interpreter if possible.