If you’re spending any length of time in Japan, there’s a good chance you’ll experience an earthquake (or two) while you’re here. Japan sits right on top of where four earth’s tectonic plates meet, resulting in more earthquakes than almost anywhere else in the world.
Earthquakes happen without warning and can be dangerous, so here’s a quick guide to help you stay prepared.
Each year, there are around 1500 earthquakes, so the locals are used to a few trembles. Japan is also home to 10% of the world’s active volcanoes, and is hit by typhoons every summer. Across the country, advanced measures are in place to protect people from disasters, so the locals are used to nature’s onslaught.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stay alert. A big part of what makes Japan so safe is that people know how to react, and they have easy access to accurate information about earthquakes affecting them.
A few extra seconds of warning can give you all the time you need to make sure you’re prepared for an earthquake. A great way to stay connected is to download an Earthquake Early Warning app. These apps send you information about any earthquakes in your area. The warning may only be 10 seconds or so before the earthquake happens, but it’s better than no warning at all!
Two of the most popular free English apps are Yurekuru and Safety Tips (published by the Japan Tourist Association).
After an earthquake, it’s also worth checking the Japan Meteorological Association earthquake webpage, which gives the most recent information, all in a matter of seconds after an earthquake hits.
Take shelter under a sturdy piece of furniture or under a doorway. If there is nowhere to hide, cover your head with something like a pillow. Don’t move until the earthquake stops.
Don’t go outside – falling debris from rooftops after an earthquake is a common cause of injury. If you’re out in the open, crouch down on the ground and cover your head to protect from falling debris until it’s safe to move. Find an open space.
Follow the examples of the locals. Earthquakes are a part of life for Japanese people, and they have drills for them at school and at work. Furthermore, messages announcing any risk to building structure after earthquakes may be given in Japanese only.
If you are near the coast and a large earthquake occurs, there may be a tsunami risk. In tsunami-prone areas, warnings will be played in English. However, if you feel a large earthquake, it’s always good to find higher ground until you are sure it is safe.
After a larger earthquake, there may be aftershocks. These can continue for up to a few days afterwards.
The Tokyo Rinkai Earthquake prevention centre is a free centre which teaches about natural disasters using all sorts of hands-on exhibits, including walking through a post-earthquake Tokyo.
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