Unusually large (>5 cm) and prolonged shaking associated with long- period ground motions at periods of about 7 sec were observed in central Tokyo during the Mw 6.6 Niigata-ken Chuetsu earthquake of 23 October 2004. The long- period ground motions caused significant resonance in high-rise buildings of about 70 floors in height. Thus, it is an urgent matter to understand the development and amplification properties of long-period ground motions in Tokyo associated with large earthquakes.

In this study, we use numerous waveform records from 585 stations in a nationwide accelerometer network (K-NET, KiK-net) and 495 intensity meters in the area around Tokyo. The data reveal that the long-period ground motion is characterized in most part by a surface, Rayleigh wave generated at the northern edge of Kanto basin, and the surface wave is developed as propagating through a thick cover of sediments (>3000–4000 m) that overlies rigid bedrock.

To complement the observational data, we conducted a large-scale computer simulation of seismic-wave propagation by employing the Earth Simulator supercomputer with a detailed source-slip model and a high-resolution 3D sedimentary structural model of central Japan. The results of the computer simulation demonstrate that the anomalously prolonged ground shaking of the long-period signal recorded in the center of Tokyo occurred because of the stagnation of seismic energy resulting from the multipathing and focusing of Rayleigh waves toward the bottom of the Kanto basin from surrounding mountain regions with interaction to the 3D basin structure.

Online material: Animations of long-period ground motions in Tokyo.

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