Earthquakes are one of the most unfortunate yet common natural disasters that befall Japan every year.
Unlike typhoons or floods, earthquakes can come out of nowhere, and trigger devastating consequences, including tsunamis, mudslides, and fires.
Nowhere is this more evident than the Great Tōhoku Earthquake in March 2011, when a powerful earthquake struck Japan, resulting in a terrifying tsunami as well as the Fukushima Nuclear Reactor meltdown.
What should be done before, after, and during an earthquake? Here are 11 things to know how you can be prepared for an earthquake in Japan.
1. Is Tokyo due for a big earthquake?
Many have said there is likely to be a similarly big earthquake in Tokyo soon, though it should be said that science cannot yet predict earthquakes with any actual accuracy.
2. Is there an earthquake season in Japan?
There is no earthquake season, nor often any telltale signs. While that may seem frightening, it’s important to remember than most earthquakes in Japan are much smaller, to the point where you’ll probably sleep right through at least one!
In fact, earthquakes in Japan are so common that they’ve created an entirely different magnitude scale called the shindo scale. Created by the Japan Meteorological Agency, this seismic intensity scale measures slightly differently, assigning earthquakes anywhere from 0-7 on the scale,
3. What to do during an earthquake in japan
First and foremost, you must stay calm. Panicking will keep you from being able to make smart, rational decisions in this kind of emergency.
When you feel the earthquake, quickly make sure that nothing around you can fall and hurt any of your loved ones. If you have a small child or elderly person, try to get them somewhere safe as well.
While many of us learned to stand in doorways, current wisdom suggests that the safest place is under the table. Even if you’re outside, try and get low so that the force of the quake doesn’t throw you to the ground.
Stay inside until the earthquake stops, or if you’re outside, try to stay away from the facades of the buildings around you as much as possible– don’t try to run inside.
What should you do immediately after an earthquake?
Once the shaking has stopped, turn on the television or look at your phone. Most often, it’s a small earthquake and you can simply go about your day.
In the event of a larger earthquake, your job will likely have an evacuation plan, as will your children’s’ school. Make sure you know that data by heart, as often they will remain at the evacuation spot for pick up hours so as not to confuse parents.
4. Preventing secondary disasters
Aftershocks are common after large earthquakes.
In addition to aftershocks are secondary disasters, which can sometimes be even worse than the original earthquake. Tsunamis, Fires, and Liquefaction disasters are all threats that can continue to affect an earthquake-hit area even after the initial quake is over.
Tokyo, in particular, is vulnerable to fires and liquefaction since it both surrounds the Sagami trough and has many acres of man-made land. Nearly 15 million people live in the Tokyo metropolitan area, and the possibility for damage is staggering enough that Japan has invested in solutions.
5. Disaster Emergency Message Dial & Disaster Message Board
Japan has a national earthquake and tsunami warning system that has become the model for other emergency systems around the world.
Since large earthquakes can often down power lines or internet servers, the Japanese government created the Emergency Message Dial system and Emergency Message Board to assist with this eventuality.
This system means you can call and hear a message from your loved one through the emergency calling system, which works regardless of cell service.
You can also dial to leave a message on your own message board of up to 30 seconds. By uploading the message for the message board yourself, anyone around the country can call 171 + your number and receive the information from the message you uploaded.
For further guidance on this system, check their website here: Disaster Message Service in English, make sure your older children or family members know about this service as well. Using it can save time and anguish as parents try to locate missing teens or families looking for lost loved ones.
How can I be prepared for an earthquake?
Like most natural disasters, being prepared for a sudden earthquake is the most important step you can take to protect your family and friends from harm.
By keeping your house and family ready for any eventuality, you won’t be caught at the worst of times without a leg to stand on.
6. Check the earthquake resistance standards
Firstly, make sure the building you’ll be living in is secure.
While serviced apartments like our buildings in the capital are rigorously checked to ensure they meet earthquake resistance standards. Some older apartments may not be, especially if they think they can get away with it when you don’t speak Japanese.
Ensure your building is up to 2006 standards for earthquake safety before you sign any paperwork, especially if you live in the older wooden houses common in the suburbs and on the coast of Honshu.
7. Find evacuation sites
Also, know the evacuation areas for your children’s schools, your partner’s place of work, and the evacuation procedure from your own.
It would behoove you to consider the routes you might take to get to each other in an emergency, especially if there are rolling brownouts where trains will likely shut down. Ensure this information is well known to your whole family, as well as a contact inside japan and one outside it, if possible.
8. Have an evacuation bag at the ready
Once you’ve settled into your space, you can do some basic things to be prepared.
Earthquake kits (like the pre-made ones) should be in an easy-to-access location somewhere in your house, with one per member of your family (and your pet too)!
9. Register with the embassy
You should also make sure that your location (and entire household) has registered with the embassy of your country in case you need to be evacuated or otherwise contacted.
10. Earthquake-proofing measures
As you buy furniture or move your own in, make sure that all installations include earthquake-proofing measures. This can include specially-designed tension rods that go between the furniture and the ceiling, shims underneath the feet of dressers and standing cabinets, and drilling items into the wall.
If you’re moving in on your own, these are available all over Japan at home stores like Cainz and Nitori.
11. Find up-to-date information
Finally, bookmark the Japan Meteorological Agency’s seismic activity page. This will give up-to-date information about any earthquakes happening throughout Japan and any possible secondary disasters.
This information is available in English, but it’s good to keep on national news as well, even if it’s in Japanese (some, like NHK, may have English translated tracks depending on your television service).
If you’re concerned about possible train closures, the JR East Website will show you any delays or future warnings along their train lines.
Conclusion: What do you do in case of an earthquake in Tokyo?
Remember, no matter what happens, the most important things are to be prepared and not panic.
- Check the earthquake resistance standards
- Find evacuation sites
- Have an evacuation bag at the ready
- All installations include earthquake-proofing measures
- Register with the embassy
- Japan Meteorological Agency’s seismic activity page
- JR East Website
- Disaster Message Service
Earthquake alerts are read out on morning news, trains, and info stations across the city, and most don’t even trigger the alarm system standard in every municipality.
Earthquakes may not be predictable, but you can do a lot to protect your family by preparing yourself with a few simple steps. We hope this guide has given you a little more information to help prepare you for an earthquake in Japan.
More useful information:
- English Speaking Doctor in Tokyo
- How To Use Share Cycling in Tokyo/Yokohama – Top 5 Bike Sharing App
- Best Side Jobs in Japan for Foreigners – Visa and Tax