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On the landward slope of the Japan Trench, the mid-slope terrace (MST) is located at a depth of 4000–6000 m. Two piston cores from the MST were analyzed to assess the applicability of the MST for turbidite paleoseismology and to find out reliable recurrence record of the great earthquakes along the Japan Trench. The cores have preserved records of ~ 12 seismo-turbidites (event deposits) during the last 4000 years. In the upper parts of the two cores, only the following earthquakes (magnitude M ~ 8 and larger) were clearly recorded: the 2011 Tohoku, the 1896 Sanriku, the 1454 Kyotoku, and the 869 Jogan earthquake. In the lower part of the cores, turbidites were deposited alternately in the northern and southern sites during the periods between concurrent depositional events occurring at intervals of 500–900 years. Considering the characteristics of the coring sites for their sensitivity to earthquake shaking, the concurrent depositional events likely correspond to a supercycle that follows giant (M ~ 9) earthquakes along the Japan Trench. Preliminary estimations of peak ground acceleration for the historical earthquakes recorded as the turbidites imply that each rupture length of the 1454 and 869 earthquakes was over 200 km. The earthquakes related to the supercycle have occurred over at least the last 4000 years, and the cycle seems to have become slightly shorter in recent years. Earthquakes off the Sanriku coast forming the alternative deposition of turbidites in the two cores have released a part of accumulated slip, as indicated by the turbidites deposited in only one core. Decreases in the release of accumulated slip have possibly caused the recent shortening of the supercycle.


This article was originally published in Geoscience Letters, available at DOI: 10.1186/s40562-018-0110-2.

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (



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