Student Advice “Natural Emergencies in Japan” from Terry

Student Advice “Natural Emergencies in Japan” from Terry

Japan, as you will all know, is very prone to natural disasters. Every year, the country is hit by earthquakes, typhoons, extreme weather and other natural phenomena.

If you are intending to stay in the country for a reasonably long period of time, it is imperative that you know what to do should a disaster occur. Not only will it save your life, it could help you to help others, too.

The Japanese word for disaster prevention is bousai 防災. With so many natural disasters hitting the islands every year, Japanese people are among the most prepared in the world. Children are taught from a very age what to do when the time comes and schools conduct regulary drills to familiarise children with the procedures.

The Japanese have a saying 備えあれば憂い無し = Sonae areba urei nashi.
That means the more you are prepared, the less you have to worry.

After the last huge Tohoku earthquake (東日本大震災 Higashi Nihon Daishinsai) in March, 2011, a lot of people were worried about aftershocks from the huge tremors and a particular worry, especially for foreigners, was the radiation leakage (放射能 houshanou) from the Fukushima nuclear power plant (原子力発電所 genshiryoku hatsudensho). People were leaving in droves to get out of the country fearing total meltdown. But the Japanese tried to keep their heads and not overreact to the situation (冷静になりましょう!Reisei ni narimashou! Let`s keep our heads!)

Whenever something happens, there are warnings on both the television and the radio. Initially, this will be a flashing alert at the top or bottom of the screen. It is helpful if you know what is happening as it could be vital to your survival.

The majority of the announcements relate to earthquakes, as these occur all year round unlike typhoons which happen during a particular period between summer and autumn.

All information is provided by the Japan Meteorological Bureau JMA (気象庁 or Kishōchō). It will normally be 地震情報 (Jishin jouhou / Earthquake information) or 地震速報 (Jishin sokuhou / prompt announcement for the earthquake).

When announced on TV, it will normally say that this is an emergency earthquake warning (緊急地震速報です Kinkyuu jishin sokuhou desu).

Some of the announcements used will be like this:

“We will announce the seismic intensity scale of each affected area as soon as we know.


/ Kakuchi no shindo wa wakari shidai oshirase itashimasu)”
Kakuchi = 各地 each area
Shindo = 震度 Japanese seismic intensity scale

In Japan, it is very common to describe the intensity of the quake with Shindo instead of magnitude, though sometimes both are used.
There are 10 levels of Shindo.
震度* 弱= shindo *jaku= Low intensity. Jaku弱 literally means weak.

震度* 強= shindo *kyou = High intensity. Kyou強 means strong.
1) Intensity level 0 震度0= shindo zero

2) Intensity level 1 震度1 = shindo ichi

3) Intensity level 2 震度 2 = shindo ni

For these three levels, most people don`t even know it happened and are not a cause for great alarm.

4) Intensity level 3 震度 3 = shindo san
Most people in the house can feel it.

5) Intensity level 4 震度4 = shindo yon
Hanging objects such as lamps will swing and unstable objects might fall.

6) Intensity level 5 lower 震度5弱 = shindo go jaku
Most people will be afraid and try to hold onto something to walk.
Books and dishes will fall out from cupboards or bookshelves.
Unstable brick walls might collapse.

7) Intensity level 5 upper 震度5強 = shindo go kyou
You will need to hold on to something to walk and unfixed furniture might topple over.

8) Intensity level 6 lower 震度6弱 = shindo roku jaku
It will be very difficult to stand. Most unfixed furniture will move or topple and some doors won`t be able to open. Wall tiles and the glass on roofs or windows might fall. Older houses that are less earthquake-resistant might fall or tilt.

9) Intensity level 6 upper 震度6強 = shindo roku kyou
You are not able to stand and have to move about by crawling. You may be knocked down by the force. Any unfixed furniture will move and fall. More weaker houses or buildings will collapse or tilt and landslides and cracks in the ground may also occur.

10) Intensity level 7 震度7 = shindo nana
Even high-earthquake-resistant buildings might start to incline.
Many low-earthquake-resistant concrete building will collapse.

After Level 7, everything will be an unmitigated disaster and damage will be widespread, from buildings to infrastructure, power will be cut and life will be very unpleasant indeed.

You will likely see this announcement:
(location) で地震 強い揺れに警戒 / (location) de jishin. Tsuyoi yure ni
There was an earthquake in (location). Be careful of strong shakes.
•強い tsuyoi = strong •揺れ yure = shake
•警戒 keikai = alert, warning

You can also register for earthquake warnings via your smart phone service provider like Softbank, AU or Docomo. All the information is provided by the JMA.
If you are using an iPhone, there is an APP called ゆれくる= yurekuru which will give you
advanced warning.

After an earthquake has struck, they will usually announce the epicentre of the quake (震源地 Shingenchi). Check out where this is and how close or far it is from your location.

Aftershocks are called yoshin 余震 and these can be bigger than the initial quake so take care. For those of you living near the coastline, check for tsunami津波 warnings.
If there is no danger from the large waves, the announcement will be:
津波の心配はありません / Tsunami no shinpai wa arimasen.

If a tsunami is imminent, the announcement will be:
津波注意報が発表されました / Tsunami keihou ga happyou saremashita.
= They issued a tsunami advisory.

As more details emerge, they will announce:
津波警報が発表されているのは次の沿岸です / Tsunami keihou ga happyou
sarete iru no wa tsugi no engan desu.
= The tsunami warning just announced affects the following seacoasts.
Engan 沿岸 = sea coast. This is very, very important if you are living by the sea so please pay attention.
In the event of a tsunami, go to a high place, up on hills as fast as you can. If you are unsure, ask where the 高台 (takadai /high place) is.

In the case of a typhoon (台風), heavy rains (大雨 Ooame) or flooding (洪水 kouzui), there are two types of warnings:
Advisory 注意報 / Chuuihou and Alert 警報 / Keihou.
Please take note that 警報 = keihou is a stronger warning and must be heeded.

Next time, I will tell you what to do in an emergency but the Golden rule is to try to keep calm, watch for warnings and follow the instructions given by the police and civil defence staff. Even if you don`t understand them, you can follow what everyone else is doing to ensure that you and your loved ones stay safe.