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Viral video does not show recent tsunami in Japan

Clip originally posted on YouTube in 2021 has now been deleted

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Claim: A video shows a group of people being struck by a tsunami after an earthquake hit Japan on 1 January 2024.

Fact: The clip is neither recent nor is it from Japan. It is from Indonesia and dates back to at least 2021.

On 1 January 2024, X (formerly Twitter) user @ZockerfreakYT posted a video (archive) showing a man standing in a blue vest, looking at a body of water before being toppled over by a giant wave. The accompanying caption — which includes three hashtags, “#japan,” “#earthquake,” and “#tsunami” — reads,

“WTF WAS HE THINKING!?!”

Japan experienced a 7.6-magnitude earthquake on New Year’s Day along the Ishikawa prefecture, according (archive) to media outlets, with the death toll reported (archive) to be above 150.

“All tsunami advisories have now been lifted along the Sea of Japan, meaning there is no longer a risk of such an event,” the BBC reported (archive).

Fact or Fiction?

Reverse image search tools first led us to this X post (archive) from November 2023, indicating that the video is definitely not from the latest earthquake in Japan.

As we continued to search, we came across other posts carrying the same video with comments by users suggesting that it was from 2022. Two Instagram posts — here (archive) and here (archive) — from 16 January 2022 show the man in the vest punching the tree trunk.

We identified two other links on X — here (archive) and here (archive) — with the clip posted in 2022.

A Community Note — an X feature that adds “context to potentially misleading posts” — added to the second X post claims that the clip dates further back to at least 2021 but the YouTube link provided states that the “video isn’t available anymore”. We searched for possible archived links and found one from 6 December 2021 that proves it is indeed the same footage.

The description in the archived version has two sentences that provided helpful information; “Ombak bono hari ini tanggal 6 Desember 2021 [Bono waves today [on] December 6 2021]” and “hanya Indrakenz salam dari binjai dan ombak bono yang bisa menaklukan batang pisang [only Indrakenz greetings from Binjai and Bono waves can conquer banana stems].”

Binjai is a city in Sumatra in western Indonesia and Bono waves are “not a typical wave” but “a tidal bore, as it is only found in a few rivers around the world”, according to Surfer Today (archive).

The website adds, “Located in the river Kampar, Sumatra, Indonesia, this wave has been secretly ridden by locals on their canoes for more than 70 years.”

Soch Fact Check, therefore, concludes that the video in question is from Indonesia, and not from Japan.

Virality

Soch Fact Check found that the same video was posted (archive) by X user @Hsnain901, gaining more than 435,000 views.

The clip posted by @ZockerfreakYT has been viewed over 316,500 times as of writing time.

This is not the first time a video of a natural disaster has gone viral in the wrong context. In January 2022, AFP Fact Check, Les Observateurs, and Teyit — all of whom are accredited by the International Fact-Checking Network (IFCN), of which Soch Fact Check is also a signatory — investigated and debunked a similar video.

Conclusion: The clip is neither recent nor is it from Japan. It is from Indonesia and roughly dates back to 2021.


Background image in cover photo: Markus Winkler


To appeal against our fact-check, please send an email to appeals@sochfactcheck.com

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