What You Need to Know the Next Time an Earthquake Hits Japan
Keep calm and carry on.
As part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, Japan is no stranger to earthquakes. The good thing about Japan, however, is that they're well-prepared for them. As TIME.com puts it, "Japan is arguably the world leader in readiness."
Still, if you're planning to visit Japan, it's important for you to know what to do in case disaster strikes during your trip. Here are some things you should know in case you find yourself in that situation:
Pay attention to alerts.
Japan has many resources on disaster preparedness, but their Earthquake Early Warning System is one of the most amazing ones. Japanese citizens receive alerts on their mobile phones right before an earthquake or a tsunami happens, according to TIME.com. This gives them enough time to move and brace themselves. As a tourist, it's highly recommended that you download one of their smartphone apps. One app, called Safety Tips (available on both iPhone and Android), alerts you when there are earthquake and tsunami warnings, gives you instructions for evacuation, and has downloadable communication cards so non-Japanese speakers can ask for help when they need to.
When in doubt, follow the locals.
In the event of an earthquake, observe the people around you. Japanese citizens have been trained since childhood to follow earthquake procedures, and they have the advantage of knowing the area well. If you find yourself in the subway or at a tourist spot when an earthquake occurs, be sure to listen and follow the guides!
Do those drills.
"Duck, cover, hold" is a universal concept. In fact, it's always the first thing you're instructed to do in case of an earthquake, whether in Japan or anywhere else. The general rule is to protect your head and stay away from glass and falling objects. Once the tremors have stopped, evacuation protocols are followed by Japanese citizens. The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has released a handy flowchart that guides people on what to do after an earthquake.
Know where to evacuate.
If circumstances are really bad, it's also important to know where you can evacuate. According to the Tokyo International Communication Committee, most elementary and junior high schools become evacuation centers during crisis, since most of their buildings are earthquake resistant. Supplies and aid are available there as well. WaNavi Japan, an organization for foreigners in Japan, suggests that you familiarize yourself with the maps or signs around the area that indicate evacuation sites. They even have an Earthquake Preparedness Help Card to help tourists with evacuating.
Find a koban.
This is something we teach most children: if you need help, look for a policeman. In Japan, there are small police stations called koban scattered around neighborhoods. According to the Japan National Tourism Organization, knowing where the local koban is would be very handy for all kinds of emergencies. If you get lost or confused, chances are you will find help there. Maybe before you begin sightseeing, ask your hotel concierge about it.
Call up the embassy.
While most tourists don't need to visit their country's embassy when they're abroad, it's best to keep their number and address with you. If a calamity like an earthquake happens while you're in Japan, situations that will require you to check in with the embassy or ask for their assistance might arise. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan has the contact details of the Philippine Embassy, so keep those in mind!
Keep yourself updated.
After an earthquake, power and water are usually shut down. Luckily, free public service WiFi becomes available in Japan after a disaster. Connect to SSID 00000JAPAN to stay in touch with your loved ones and to receive alerts in case of aftershocks or tsunamis. It's also a good way to remain informed since some roads are blocked or the transportation systems are not operating immediately.