The Great Hanshin Earthquake struck Kobe, Japan in 1994. It was a magnitude 6.8, and 6400+ people died.
The Loma Prieta Earthquake struck San Francisco, California (US) in 1989. It was a magnitude 6.9, and just 63 people died, 42 of them from a single incident in which a highway overpass collapsed.
The US and Japan are both first-world countries with strong building codes (or so I thought). So why the vastly different body count for these two apparently similar earthquakes?