Japan has experienced many disasters, including earthquakes, typhoons, and heavy rains in recent years, so the chances of international visitors encountering one of these events are relatively high.
If you had never experienced these kinds of disasters in your home country and then happened to be affected by one when you come to Japan, it’s only natural that fear and worry would make you panic.
After a typhoon in 2019, lots of international tourists expressed statements like “Planes and other transports were canceled”, “My schedule got screwed up and I had to pay out lots in extra expenses”,“Food and sundries were sold out everywhere” and “I couldn’t understand Japanese, so I had no idea where to go.”
In this article, we’re going to fill you in on all you need to know so that you don’t have to panic if something terrible happens, show you what apps to use to receive information about disasters, and provide information that’s useful should disaster strike.
Free Wi-Fi during disasters and medical facilities
We pray that it doesn’t happen, but just in case it does, there’s one thing that you should know to start with. That is that there’s a free Wi-Fi service that you can only connect to when a large disaster hits.
Try to remember the phrase “Five zero Japan!” If a major disaster hits, this Wi-Fi network will appear at the top of your networks list. You don’t need a password to connect and just knowing that you will be able to connect to something should be at least somewhat of a relief.
There’s also a website where you can search for foreign language-speaking medical facilities in case you become sick or injured!
Since you can search for medical facilities nationwide, we recommend that once you know your travel plans and destination, you make a memo of the nearest facility’s telephone number just in case.
Preparing for seasonal disasters and earthquakes
Japan deals with a lot of disasters, so we do a lot of disaster drills and learn a lot of ways to cope with disasters at school, etc., from an early age to prepare.
If you’re planning to come to Japan, it’s important that you look up what kinds of disasters are common during your travel period and learn how to deal with them!
During a disaster, everyone tries to use Wi-Fi at once, so the connection might get jammed.
We think it’s best if you carry the pamphlet below, which has the numbers for emergency call centers on it, and a help card that you will find in many phrasebooks with you.
This will be useful if you become sick or injured too (Made by Tokyo Metro)
▼Disaster Prevention Pamphlet
▼ Help card to study in advance
▼ Common disasters by season
Spring to Summer: Heavy rains due to seasonal rain fronts (mid-May to mid-June)
Summer to Fall: Storms due to typhoons and heavy rains (mid-August to late September)
Winter: Heavy snowfall and snow cover (December to February)
⇒Leads to flooding, landslides, earth/rock falls, landslips
Good to know: The best seasons to visit Japan are obviously the seasons when you can avoid all of these.
From March to April in the spring, you can enjoy the cherry blossoms, between November and December you can take in the clear fall weather and beautiful falling leaves, and from April until the start of the rainy season you can enjoy nice, stable weather and fresh green leaves (although you should probably miss Golden Week from the end of April to the beginning of May as everyone is off work and places are crowded!)
There are also fewer visitors around the April-June period than in Spring and Fall, so this period is best if you want to travel more at your leisure.
Disasters unrelated to the seasons: Earthquakes ⇒ Tsunamis
Earthquakes in particular, both big and small, tend to occur a lot around Tokyo.
They can come any time, day or night, and the shaking can be quite violent.
Tokyo Metro has created a video for foreign visitors to watch called “When an Earthquake Strikes – Cautions & Preparations,” so you should check it out before you travel.
There are lots of different disaster prevention apps, including “Safety Tips” from the Japan Tourism Agency and those created by private companies, but we think that the one from the TV channel NHK—the “NHK WORLD-JAPAN App”—is the best.
Even Japanese people often watch NHK during times of crisis and according to a previous survey*, many international visitors said that they got their information from NHK themselves.
*Survey Research Center, Co., Ltd. “Survey of International Visitors Related to Advanced Response to Disaster Information on Typhoon 19.”
BOSAI, which is a website from the same broadcaster, also tells you how you can make things like ponchos and lanterns easily out plastic bags and bottles when stores are bare during crises.
There’s also know-how related to outdoor activities too, so make sure to give it a read!
When you encounter disaster, or become sick or injured, in Japan, you can always ask Japanese people nearby.
Don’t let the situation become any worse. We will be hoping you enjoy your trip to Japan in safety!