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Preface for the special issue of “New Perspective of Subduction Zone Earthquakes”

Giant subduction zone earthquakes such as the recent 2004 Sumatra and 2011 Tohoku-oki earthquakes and their accompanying tsunamis cause significant damage to human society, and it is our earnest desire to scientifically elucidate how they occur. In the Nankai Trough, Japan, great earthquakes and tsunamis have occurred repeatedly, and more are predicted for this site in the near future. Super-deep drilling by the drilling vessel Chikyu will enable us to directly sample seismogenic faults as well as conduct analyses, experiments, and in situ borehole measurements. These efforts should significantly improve our understanding of pre- and co-seismic processes of great subduction zone earthquakes. The Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP, 2003–2012) and International Ocean Discovery Program (2013–2022) have decided to promote the Nankai Trough Seismogenic Zone experiments (NantroSEIZE) using Chikyu, although the deep target of the plate boundary fault has not yet been reached as of 2015.

We created a Japanese partnership program with NantroSEIZE (new perspective on great subduction zone earthquakes from super deep drilling: Kakenhi for the Nankai trough megaquakes, KANAME program, with financial support from the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology from 2008–2015). The scientific objective of the program is to improve our understanding of pre- and co-seismic processes of great subduction zone earthquakes by directly sampling seismogenic faults and conducting analyses, experiments, and in situ borehole measurements in the Nankai Trough region. To realize this goal, our strategy consists of the following three schemes: (1) understanding the overall framework of the Nankai Trough seismogenic zone, (2) revealing the materials and mechanical and hydrologic properties of seismogenic faults, and (3) construction and verification of a comprehensive model for pre- and co-seismic processes.

On March 11, 2011, during the middle phase of the KANAME program, the Tohoku-oki earthquake and tsunami took place. Chikyu was damaged by the tsunami in the Hachinohe harbor in northeast Japan, and all programs that had been planned for implementation using Chikyu had to be delayed or canceled, including NantroSEIZE and KANAME. On the other hand, IODP immediately planned and conducted drilling at the Japan Trench, at the site of the Tohoku-oki earthquake, after Chikyu was repaired. We modified the KANAME project to include research on the Japan Trench and drilling at other subduction zones, such as Costa Rica. Many new findings and papers have been produced as a result of the KANAME project. The project was completed in 2015, but the NantroSEIZE effort is ongoing. This special issue presents some of the results of the KANAME project, mainly by scientists who took part in the project, although many papers have already published in other journals. Drs. Shelly and Rowe were invited as guest editors in addition to our internal guest editors (Kimura, Kinoshita, and Ashi).

This issue includes 33 papers:

  1. (1)

    The Nankai trough (14 papers; Sugihara et al. 2014, Yamano et al. 2014, Tsuji et al. 2014, Idehara et al. 2014, Akuhara and Mochizuki 2014, Hyodo et al. 2014, Ashi et al. 2014, Tanikawa et al. 2014, Takahashi et al. 2014, Yamada and Shibanuma 2015, Hamada et al. 2015, Takeshita et al. 2014, Hino et al. 2015, and Toki et al. 2014)

  2. (2)

    The Japan trench (6 papers; Aochi and Ide 2014, Nakamura et al. 2014, Koge et al. 2014, Lin et al. 2014, Sawai et al. 2014, and Boston et al. 2014)

  3. (3)

    Other trenches and fault zones (4 papers; Maekawa et al. 2014, Namiki et al. 2014, Ishikawa et al. 2014, and Yabe et al. 2014) and ancient accretionary complexes and faults on land (7 papers; Schumann et al. 2014, Hamahashi et al. 2015, Fukuchi et al. 2014, Kameda et al. 2014, Yamaguchi et al. 2014, Kogure et al. 2014, and Hashimoto and Yamano 2014)

  4. (4)

    Theoretical treatments of fracture and earthquake (2 papers; Kame et al. 2014 and Nishiyama et al. 2014)

The papers are also categorized into three scientific issues, focusing on different regions within each topic:

  1. (1)

    Framework and setting of the seismogenic zone from the view point of seismicity in the Nankai trough (Idehara et al. 2014, Akuhara and Mochizuki 2014), Japan Trench (Aochi and Ide 2014), Hikurangi margin (Yabe et al. 2014), or from the geological and geophysical points of view for the Nankai Trough (Tsuji et al. 2014, Ashi et al. 2014, Sugihara et al. 2014, Yamano et al. 2014) and Japan Trench (Boston et al. 2014, Koge et al. 2014, Nakamura et al. 2014, Lin et al. 2014)

  2. (2)

    Material and physical properties or conditions of the fault for the Nankai Trough (Takahashi et al. 2014, Tanikawa et al. 2014, Hamada et al. 2015), the Japan Trench (Sawai et al. 2014), and the Costa Rica margin (Namiki et al. 2014)

  3. (3)

    Analysis of water–rock interaction with faulting in an ancient accretion complex and fault in the Shimanto Belt, Japan (Schumann et al. 2014, Hamahashi et al. 2015, Fukuchi et al. 2014, Kameda et al. 2014), Chelunpu Fault, Taiwan (Maekawa et al. 2014), Alaska (Yamaguchi et al. 2014), Median Tectonic Line, Japan (Ishikawa et al. 2014), crustal rocks on land (Kogure et al. 2014), and theoretical treatment of fracturing, friction, and earthquakes (Nishiyama et al. 2014, Kame et al. 2014)

Traditional research on earthquakes is physics-based, but physico-chemical processes and their geological record in fault rocks, both in active and inactive fossilized rocks, are of recent concern. Many studies of natural records of seismic faulting have been conducted in terms of their physico-chemical processes. The Japanese islands are composed mainly of ancient and modern accretionary complexes, some of which were exhumed from the seismogenic depth of the plate boundary megathrust and yield the best analog of seismogenic fault rocks in the subduction zone. This special issue will present such examples.


  1. Akuhara T, Mochizuki K (2014) Application of cluster analysis based on waveform cross-correlation coefficients to data recorded by ocean-bottom seismometers: results from off the Kii Peninsula. Earth, Planets and Space 66:80

  2. Aochi H, Ide S (2014) Ground motions characterized by a multi-scale heterogeneous earthquake model. Earth, Planets and Space 66:42

  3. Ashi J, Sawada R, Omura A, Ikehara K (2014) Accumulation of an earthquake-induced extremely turbid layer in a terminal basin of the Nankai accretionary prism. Earth, Planets and Space 66:51

  4. Boston B, Moore GF, Nakamura Y, Kodaira S (2014) Outer-rise normal fault development and influence on near-trench décollement propagation along the Japan Trench, off Tohoku. Earth, Planets and Space 66:135

  5. Fukuchi R, Fujimoto K, Kameda J, Hamahashi M, Yamaguchi A, Kimura G, Hamada Y, Hashimoto Y, Kitamura Y, Saito S (2014) Changes in illite crystallinity within an ancient tectonic boundary thrust caused by thermal, mechanical, and hydrothermal effects: an example from the Nobeoka Thrust, southwest Japan. Earth, Planets and Space 66:116

  6. Hamada Y, Sakaguchi A, Tanikawa W, Yamaguchi A, Kameda J, Kimura G (2015) Estimation of slip rate and fault displacement during shallow earthquake rupture in the Nankai subduction zone. Earth, Planets and Space 67:39

  7. Hamahashi M, Hamada Y, Yamaguchi A, Kimura G, Fukuchi R, Saito S, Kameda J, Kitamura Y, Fujimoto K, Hashimoto Y (2015) Multiple damage zone structure of an exhumed seismogenic megasplay fault in a subduction zone—a study from the Nobeoka Thrust Drilling Project. Earth, Planets and Space 67:30

  8. Hashimoto Y, Yamano N (2014) Geological evidence for shallow ductile-brittle transition zones along subduction interfaces: example from the Shimanto Belt, SW Japan. Earth, Planets and Space 66:141

  9. Hino R, Tsuji T, Bangs NL, Sanada Y, Park J-O, Rv H, Moore GF, Araki E, Kinoshita M (2015) Q P structure of the accretionary wedge in the Kumano Basin, Nankai Trough, Japan, revealed by long-offset walk-away VSP. Earth, Planets and Space 67:7

  10. Hyodo M, Hori T, Ando K, Baba T (2014) The possibility of deeper or shallower extent of the source area of Nankai Trough earthquakes based on the 1707 Hoei tsunami heights along the Pacific and Seto Inland Sea coasts, southwest Japan. Earth, Planets and Space 66:123

  11. Idehara K, Yabe S, Ide S (2014) Regional and global variations in the temporal clustering of tectonic tremor activity. Earth, Planets and Space 66:66

  12. Ishikawa T, Hirono T, Matsuta N, Kawamoto K, Fujimoto K, Kameda J, Nishio Y, Maekawa Y, Honda G (2014) Geochemical and mineralogical characteristics of fault gouge in the Median Tectonic Line, Japan: evidence for earthquake slip. Earth, Planets and Space 66:36

  13. Kame N, Nagata K, Nakatani M, Kusakabe T (2014) Feasibility of acoustic monitoring of strength drop precursory to earthquake occurrence. Earth, Planets and Space 66:41

  14. Kameda J, Kawabata K, Hamada Y, Yamaguchi A, Kimura G (2014) Quartz deposition and its influence on the deformation process of megathrusts in subduction zones. Earth, Planets and Space 66:13

  15. Koge H, Fujiwara T, Kodaira S, Sasaki T, Kameda J, Kitamura Y, Hamahashi M, Fukuchi R, Yamaguchi A, Hamada Y, Ashi J, Kimura G (2014) Friction properties of the plate boundary megathrust beneath the frontal wedge near the Japan Trench: an inference from topographic variation. Earth, Planets and Space 66:153

  16. Kogure T, Raimbourg H, Kumamoto A, Fujii E, Ikuhara Y (2014) Subgrain boundary analyses in deformed orthopyroxene by TEM/STEM with EBSD-FIB sample preparation technique. Earth, Planets and Space 66:84

  17. Lin W, Fulton PM, Harris RN, Tadai O, Matsubayashi O, Tanikawa W, Kinoshita M (2014) Thermal conductivities, thermal diffusivities, and volumetric heat capacities of core samples obtained from the Japan Trench Fast Drilling Project (JFAST). Earth, Planets and Space 66:48

  18. Maekawa Y, Hirono T, Yabuta H, Mukoyoshi H, Kitamura M, Ikehara M, Tanikawa W, Ishikawa T (2014) Estimation of slip parameters associated with frictional heating during the 1999 Taiwan Chi-Chi earthquake by vitrinite reflectance geothermometry. Earth, Planets and Space 66:28

  19. Nakamura Y, Kodaira S, Cook BJ, Jeppson T, Kasaya T, Yamamoto Y, Hashimoto Y, Yamaguchi M, Obana K, Fujie G (2014) Seismic imaging and velocity structure around the JFAST drill site in the Japan Trench: low Vp, high Vp/Vs in the transparent frontal prism. Earth, Planets and Space 66:121

  20. Namiki Y, Tsutsumi A, Ujiie K, Kameda J (2014) Frictional properties of sediments entering the Costa Rica subduction zone offshore the Osa Peninsula: implications for fault slip in shallow subduction zones. Earth, Planets and Space 66:72

  21. Nishiyama S, Ohnishi Y, Ito H, Yano T (2014) Mechanical and hydraulic behavior of a rock fracture under shear deformation. Earth, Planets and Space 66:108

  22. Sawai M, Hirose T, Kameda J (2014) Frictional properties of incoming pelagic sediments at the Japan Trench: implications for large slip at a shallow plate boundary during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Earth, Planets and Space 66:65

  23. Schumann K, Behrmann JH, Stipp M, Yamamoto Y, Kitamura Y, Lempp C (2014) Geotechnical behavior of mudstones from the Shimanto and Boso accretionary complexes, and implications for the Nankai accretionary prism. Earth, Planets and Space 66:129

  24. Sugihara T, Kinoshita M, Araki E, Kimura T, Kyo M, Namba Y, Kido Y, Sanada Y, Thu M (2014) Re-evaluation of temperature at the updip limit of locked portion of Nankai megasplay inferred from IODP Site C0002 temperature observatory. Earth, Planets and Space 66:107

  25. Takahashi M, Azuma S, Ito H, Kanagawa K, Inoue A (2014) Frictional properties of the shallow Nankai Trough accretionary sediments dependent on the content of clay minerals. Earth, Planets and Space 66:75

  26. Takeshita T, Yamaguchi A, Shigematsu N (2014) Stress reversal recorded in calcite vein cuttings from the Nankai accretionary prism, southwest Japan. Earth, Planets and Space 66:144

  27. Tanikawa W, Mukoyoshi H, Lin W, Hirose T, Tsutsumi A (2014) Pressure dependence of fluid transport properties of shallow fault systems in the Nankai subduction zone. Earth, Planets and Space 66:90

  28. Toki T, Higa R, Ijiri A, Tsunogai U, Ashi J (2014) Origin and transport of pore fluids in the Nankai accretionary prism inferred from chemical and isotopic compositions of pore water at cold seep sites off Kumano. Earth, Planets and Space 66:137

  29. Tsuji T, Ashi J, Ikeda Y (2014) Strike-slip motion of a mega-splay fault system in the Nankai oblique subduction zone. Earth, Planets and Space 66:120

  30. Yabe S, Ide S, Yoshioka S (2014) Along-strike variations in temperature and tectonic tremor activity along the Hikurangi subduction zone, New Zealand. Earth, Planets and Space 66:142

  31. Yamada Y, Shibanuma J (2015) Small-scale stress fluctuations in borehole breakouts and their implication in identifying potential active faults around the seismogenic megasplay fault, Nankai Trough, SW Japan. Earth, Planets and Space 67:17

  32. Yamaguchi A, Ishikawa T, Kato Y, Nozaki T, Meneghini F, Rowe CD, Moore J, Tsutsumi A, Kimura G (2014) Fluid-rock interaction recorded in black fault rocks in the Kodiak accretionary complex, Alaska. Earth, Planets and Space 66:58

  33. Yamano M, Kawada Y, Hamamoto H (2014) Heat flow survey in the vicinity of the branches of the megasplay fault in the Nankai accretionary prism. Earth, Planets and Space 66:126

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We are grateful to MEXT for their financial support of this project 21107001.

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Correspondence to Gaku Kimura.

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GK wrote the draft of the paper and others confirmed the contents. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Kimura, G., Ashi, J., Kinoshita, M. et al. Preface for the special issue of “New Perspective of Subduction Zone Earthquakes”. Earth Planet Sp 67, 123 (2015).

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  • Nankai Trough
  • Accretionary Complex
  • Seismogenic Fault
  • Fault Rock
  • Japan Trench