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Be Prepared! Things to Know in Case of Natural Disasters in Japan

Japan is a country that, compared to many other countries, is more prone to natural disasters. What to do if you encounter a disaster while in Japan? A little knowledge can go a long way to achieving peace of mind, so here are some safety tips.

Major Natural Disasters in Japan

To start, here are the major types of natural disasters that are likely to happen in Japan.

Torrential Rain, Typhoons, Floods, and Mudslides

Japan is a rainy country with unexpected torrential rains. Particularly during the hurricane season between summer and fall, there can be damage from floods and mudslides caused by torrential rain, as well as from strong winds and tornadoes.

Earthquakes and Tsunami

Every year, Japan gets many earthquakes, ranging from large ones like the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake to much smaller ones. The high frequency of earthquakes is due to the fact that the islands of Japan are located above an area where the Earth's tectonic plates collide. Tsunami can also be caused if the epicenter of a large earthquake is the ocean.

Heavy Snow

Many areas across Japan get snow between January and March. In places that usually don't get much snow, such as Tokyo, there can be major disruptions to transportation from just a small amount of snowfall. Even in snowy regions like Hokkaido, Tohoku, Hokuriku, and Koshinetsu, particularly large amounts of snow can lead to disruptions in transportation systems and damage to building structures.

Volcanic Eruptions

Japan has many volcanoes, including ones that are currently active. There are about 110 volcanoes that could erupt, which is a staggering 7.3% of all volcanoes around the world. There are several ways damage could be inflicted by volcanic eruptions: flying volcanic rock, pyroclastic flow, ​flowing lava, poisoning from volcanic gases, lahar, and avalanches.

How to Obtain Accurate Information During Emergencies

When there are natural disasters, updates are reported on Japanese TV and radio. However, there can be language issues, so travelers are recommended to obtain information through sources as the Safety Tips app issued by the Japan National Tourism Organization.

Safety Tips: Available in English, Chinese (Traditional and Simplified), and Korean
For Android
For iPhone

How to Obtain Accurate Information During Emergencies

What to Watch Out for in Case of Natural Disasters

In Case of Typhoons, Torrential Rain, Heavy Snow, Floods, or Mudslides

Avoid going outdoors unless absolutely necessary during inclement weather, such as typhoons and torrential rain. Do not go out just because you are on vacation! If conditions are likely to worsen, the Japan Meteorological Agency will issue warnings. In such cases, the local government will instruct your hotel on evacuations and other procedures, so be sure to follow those instructions.

In Case of Earthquakes or Tsunami

If there is an earthquake, first be sure to secure your safety by, for example, protecting your head. It can take several minutes from the time the earthquake starts until the tremors become violent, and there can be aftershocks, so be vigilant. Evacuation sites may be set up in case of a large earthquake. In such an event, go to the nearest site, ask about language services, and follow the appropriate instructions.
Warning sounds and alarms will be sounded when there is danger of a tsunami. If you hear an alarm, be sure to stay away from the sea and rivers. If evacuation is necessary, follow what the locals are doing and evacuate to a high place as quickly as possible.

In Case of Volcanic Eruptions

An eruption alert will be issued if a volcano that is under observation erupts. Information regarding restrictions on entering the area will also be released, so make sure to check in advance if you are planning to hike or see the sights in a volcanic area. This information will be posted at local train stations and major facilities in the area as well, so be sure to follow the instructions and rules.

If you encounter a natural disaster, remember not to panic! Cooperate with the people around you and follow instructions.

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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