Disaster prevention goods, first aid supplies, radios, flashlights, dry bread

Stay Prepared: Seven Tips for Surviving Natural Disasters

Living safely and comfortably in Japan requires an awareness of potential natural disasters. In disaster-prone Japan, more and more people are interested in disaster prevention, leading to disaster-resistant urban development. In this issue, we introduce seven useful tips for living in Japan, covering everything from the characteristics of natural disasters in Japan to how to prepare and know what to do in an emergency. Be prepared for disasters and enjoy life in Japan even more!

1. Learn about natural disasters that occur in Japan

Many natural disasters can occur in Japan, including typhoons and torrential rains that cause extensive damage yearly and earthquakes that can strike anywhere at any time. However, living in this country makes disasters unavoidable. It's important to understand and prepare for each type.

Typhoons, downpours and heavy snow
Japan experiences various weather events depending on the temperature and climate due to its four distinct seasons. The transition from spring to summer is often marked by heavy rainfall, known as the “”rainy season,”” while summer and autumn are often marked by approaching typhoons and rainstorms. Winter brings substantial snowfall and accumulation, especially in the Sea of Japan region, causing many traffic disruptions.
Floods and landslides
As 70% of the country is mountainous, the rivers are steep and fast-flowing, making them prone to flooding. The combination of earthquakes, tectonic movements, temperate climate, and heavy rainfall creates a complex topography that increases the likelihood of landslides. In the past few years, cities with concrete and asphalt-covered grounds have experienced a rise in flooding incidents, including internal flooding where sewage and drainage systems struggle to cope with heavy rainfall, leading to water overflowing onto the streets.
Earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic disasters
Japan is prone to earthquakes and volcanic activity because it is located where four of the dozen or so plates (bedrocks) covering the Earth’s surface collide. In addition, being an island nation surrounded by the sea, tsunamis caused by earthquakes are also a major cause of damage. On the other hand, many areas near volcanoes have hot springs, utilizing volcanic heat to coexist with nature.

2. What happens when a major disaster occurs?

Disaster prevention goods, first aid supplies, radios, flashlights, dry bread
Disaster prevention goods, first aid supplies, radios, flashlights, dry bread

Disasters can disrupt essential services like power, water, and gas, as well as transportation and distribution, which can have a significant impact on daily life. There may be cases where power and water outages make accessing food and water difficult. In some seasons, life-threatening situations may arise from a lack of heating and air conditioning. Depending on the magnitude of the disaster, it might take some time to restore essential services. In such cases, if you face difficulties living at home, you can consider relocating to temporary shelters such as nearby schools or community centers. It would also be best to decide how to prepare in advance, gather information, and communicate with family members.

3. Gathering correct information during a disaster

Multilingual Information on Disaster Mitigation

Find out in advance where you can gather the information you need to assess disasters. As you may be unfamiliar with disasters, you may find it difficult to understand disaster terminology and other information when the time comes. The number of multilingual information websites and apps has increased in Japan in recent years. The JMA's Information on Disaster Mitigation, and "Safety tips", an app developed under the supervision of the Japan Tourism Agency, can be easily accessed from smartphones. Use these websites and apps daily to prepare for disasters.

Information on Disaster Mitigation
The Japan Meteorological Agency's website contains multilingual information on disaster prevention. It provides guidance on various types of disasters, including severe weather, earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes, and oceanic disasters. (https://www.jma.go.jp/jma/kokusai/multi.html)

Safety tips
The free app developed under the supervision of the Japan Tourism Agency sends notifications about disasters in Japan. It issues earthquake and tsunami alerts as well as evacuation information in 15 languages. (https://www.rcsc.co.jp/safety

4. Important things to remember when evacuating

Hazard Map Portal Site

The timing of evacuation and the safety of the route to the emergency shelter will vary depending on the state of the disaster. Therefore, it is advisable to check the hazard maps published by local authorities to determine the level of danger around your home in the event of a disaster, as well as emergency shelters. It is also important to check not only your home and living area but also potential evacuation sites such as workplaces, parents' homes, friends' homes, etc. If you mark your address and check hazards such as floods, landslides, and tsunamis, you can see exactly where different evacuation sites are suitable for different types of disasters.
It is also important to discuss and decide on a meeting place with family and friends in advance. Using the Disaster Message Board web171 to post messages online and contacting your embassy for advice are also effective.

Disaster Message Board web171
The message board allows users to post and confirm safety and other information in text form online. When a disaster occurs, residents affected by the disaster, including those in emergency shelters, can use their telephone number as a key to post text messages on the Disaster Message Board (web171) via the internet. (https://www.web171.jp/web171app/topRedirect/

5. Prepare for disasters in advance


It is important to have at least three days' worth of supplies, especially a week's worth of food and drinking water, in case distribution is interrupted to ensure safety. Stock up on foods you are accustomed to eating and drinks you like in addition to mineral water. Keep an "everyday stockpile," consume items close to their expiry date, and replenish as supplies decrease.
It is also a good idea to have a "carry-out bag" in addition to your home provisions in case you need to evacuate to a place away from home, such as a shelter, for several days. A large backpack that keeps both your hands free is the best type to take with you. Once you have packed the items you will likely need at the shelter, check in advance whether they are light enough to carry on your back!

Don’t worry about the size or shape of the pouch, just choose one that you normally carry plus what you might need in a disaster.


Left: Feminine hygiene products Pack slender-sized ones that you are accustomed to that fit in your pouch and replace them regularly. They can also help stop bleeding in case of injuries.
Center: Food (chocolate, candy, tablets) In addition to hard candy and mint tablets, you can pack bite-sized chocolates. They can satisfy you when you’re a little bit hungry.
Right: Portable battery During a disaster, smartphones are essential for gathering information and communicating. Remember to bring the power cable.


Left: Wet wipes There are also emergency-use products that can be stored and used for a long period in light- and moisture-resistant packages.
Bottom left: Face masks In addition to preventing infectious diseases, face masks can also be useful in emergency situations, such as protecting against dust from collapsed roads and buildings.
Right: Drinks Even if they do not fit in a pouch, drinks should always be kept in a bag. Small 350 ml-sized drinks will suffice.


Left: Space blanket The blanket can be used to keep you warm and dry. Test its capabilities.
Center: Disposable hand warmers It’s useful to have mini versions of both adhesive and non-adhesive types to keep warm.
Right: Portable toilet Areas affected by disasters may lack toilets. Check how to use portable toilets to use them without trouble.


Left: Skincare products Pack a sample-size toner and lotion or an all-in-one moisturizer to prevent your skin from getting dry.
Center: Family photos and contact information In case you cannot use your smartphone, pack a note with contact information and photos of your family members’ faces for peace of mind.
Right: Adhesive bandage The bandages can be used for first aid and to relieve sore feet. Keep three or four in a sealed bag to prevent them from getting wet.


Top left: Medicine Pack painkillers and other medication you are accustomed to taking, even if you don’t have a chronic illness.
Center: Pouch Don’t worry about the size or shape as long as you can always carry it in your bag like a good luck charm.
Charm on pouch: Dental floss Good oral hygiene is essential in controlling infections. If brushing is not possible, flossing is a suitable alternative.


Left: Flashlight A keychain type is recommended because it is difficult to retrieve it from a pouch when it is needed.
Center: Whistle Chose a whistle that’s easy to blow with little breath to alert people of her location or send an SOS.
Right: Hairband It’s not only useful for tucking in your hair but also for fastening a bag of leftover snacks or organizing small items.

We also recommend creating an emergency pouch for on-the-go disaster preparedness. Find the best size for you, remembering you will always carry it in your bag. It is important to always keep track of the bag's contents, including emergency items you may need during a disaster, such as disposable toilets and space blankets, as well as items you will use daily, such as medicine and a portable battery.

6. Contact points for expatriates to help you in a disaster

Japan Visitor Hotline

In Japan, local governments actively raise disaster awareness for international visitors and expatriates to provide security in preparation for potential disasters. Visit your local government and find out where you should go for assistance in the event of a disaster. In addition, the Japan Visitor Hotline has been established as a telephone helpline to prevent the dissemination of one-sided information. The dedicated call center for international visitors and expatriates provides multilingual support 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, so you can use the service with peace of mind when visiting Japan or during a sudden disaster while away from home.

Japan Visitor Hotline
The multilingual call center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It provides support in emergencies such as illness and disasters, as well as general tourist information (no third-party interpretation or booking agency services are available). The service is available in English, Chinese and Korean. Call 050-3816-2787

7. The disaster-ready Seibu Line area is a safe place to live

Source: The Geospatial Information Authority of Japan’s website (elevation tile map)

We have provided various disaster preparedness tips, but it's also crucial to understand your town's specific countermeasures and the unique risks of where you live in Japan. For example, the Seibu Railway connects the western part of Tokyo's 23 wards to the western part of Saitama Prefecture through a network of lines on the Musashino Plateau. This area benefits from a stable ground, which makes it less vulnerable to tremors and liquefaction in case of an earthquake. Seibu Railway won the grand prize for having the firmest ground among Tokyo's railway lines during the "Good Ground Day Awards*." SUUMO, a leading Japanese real estate website, also ranked Tokorozawa, the center point of the Seibu Lines, as the most disaster-resistant city among 184 cities and wards in Tokyo and three prefectures. A town with firm grounds such as this is expected to mitigate disaster risks, not only in terms of the amount of damage but also the intensity of tremors when an earthquake strikes. Several factors contribute to the area being less vulnerable to flooding and water damage, except along rivers and waterfronts. For instance, there are only a few major rivers in the area, and the railroad tracks are laid on flat land at an elevation of about 30 to 40 meters.

Living in a disaster-resistant city may be beneficial if you live in Japan or plan to work or study here. How about taking this opportunity to start a new life in the Seibu Line area, which is disaster-resistant and easy to live in?

*Good Ground Day Awards Jibannet Holdings, Co., Ltd. designated November 28 as ""Good Ground Day"" in 2016. The awards aim to acknowledge the creation of a living environment that ensures the safety and prosperity of people and the achievements of corporate activities that protect people from disasters.

text_Ami Hanashima photo_getty images