Natural disasters may occur at any time and place in Japan. Typhoons hit from Mid August until the end of September, Volcanic activity and Earthquakes could happen all year round. They may occur in rural as well as densely populated areas. Floods come together with typhoons, fire and tsunamis together with earthquakes or volcanic activities. While typhoons and volcanic eruptions can often be predicted, thus allowing the authorities to take adequate preventive measures, earthquakes will hit without prior warning.
It is not possible to obtain 100% protection from such disasters while living in Japan, however you can prepare yourself and thus lessen the danger for you and your family. The present information sheet intends to provide some tips you might want to consider in drawing up a personal reaction plan in case of an earthquake.
Prepare your home
Your home should be built according or superior to the standards set in 1981.
Secure your furniture to the wall by using special devices to prevent them from toppling over (available at “Tokyu Hands” or similar stores)
Don’t place any heavy items from the top of shelves and cupboards
Make sure you know where to switch off the gas supply of your apartment
Know the emergency exits in your building and make sure they are not obstructed in any way
Stock up at least 3 days of food and water supply
Prepare an escape bag with radio, flash lights, spare batteries, solid fuel for a cooker, candles, toilet articles, a set of underwear, money (including coins) and ID documents.
Preparation with your family
Make certain everyone, including children, knows where to meet after an earthquake, Parents will want to consult school officials for special guidelines in this regard
Evacuation: Evacuations must be carried out when fires are spreading or buildings are in danger of being destroyed by landslides, etc. City police and fire authorities will issue evacuation advice. Just in case you must evacuate from your office or apartment building, take a walking pre-survey of the designated place of evacuation nearest your home and office. Also be familiar with the location of the ward office and the telephone number of the Disaster Relief Headquarters for your ward.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government has maps of evacuation points. Your landlord or the ward office can provide you with detailed information.
Remember: Even if you are not asked to evacuate, the evacuation points will have fresh water, food and medical supplies.
During a quake
Inside a building:
Never use an elevator during or immediately after an earthquake
Stay away from objects which may easily fall or break
Find shelter under a table or some other solid object
Cover your head
Turn off the gas
Open all doors as soon as possible in order to have a free escape route
Watch for falling objects and keep away from narrow alleys
Try to hide behind a stone or a concrete wall. This may protect you from flying glass
Walk in the middle of the road and observe the houses; watch out for falling power lines
If you notice a fire, check the wind direction, then walk in the opposite direction
While driving a car:
Stop your car on the left side of the road (the centre lane must stay available for emergency vehicles)
Leave the key in the car and do not lock the doors
Walk to the nearest evacuation site
The role of the Embassy
The Japanese Government will be responsible for assisting foreigners immediately after a major earthquake.
Telephone services will be severely overloaded and the Japanese Government will restrict phone use to priority users. The Swiss Embassy has been assigned 2 dedicated priority lines and will quickly try to ascertain the welfare and whereabouts of all Swiss citizens. Swiss citizens should cooperate with Japanese authorities at evacuation sites and clearly identify themselves as Swiss. Those connected with larger organizations such as companies, schools or church groups should try to let these organizations know of their well-being and whereabouts if possible.
The Swiss Embassy will be in touch with the Japanese Government and other organizations to attempt to identify as many Swiss citizens as possible and determine their well-being.
Beside the use of the Embassy’s priority phone lines, the use of the NTT disaster message telephone service 171 is strongly recommended.
During an earthquake, volcanic eruption, or any other kind of major disaster, communication attempts to the affected area dramatically increase and it becomes difficult to make a connection. In order to minimize telephone use, NTT East introduced a voice message board service that uses the number 171. This service allows the users to leave a voice message that their relatives and friends can easily retrieve.
To learn how to use this service, on the 1st and the 15th (00:00 - 24:00) of every month you have the possibility to record as well as retrieve your own message. Try it out, it might be very useful in case of a real natural disaster.
Most importantly, the Swiss Embassy in Tokyo will forward as much information as possible about the situation as well as the status of Swiss citizens to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, who will contact relatives in Switzerland and answer their inquiries.
The Japanese local governments have published various information brochures in regard to earthquake. Many of these publications have been translated into English and are available free of charge.
For copies please get in touch with the organizations listed below.
Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Bureau of General Affairs
The Disaster Prevention Division
phone (03) 5388 2453 Tokyo Metropolitan Government
Your ward office
Your local fire or police station
Or the consular section of the Swiss Embassy
Please provide the Swiss Embassy with a contact address (in Switzerland) in case of an emergency and notify the Embassy immediately whenever:
Newly arriving in Japan
Changing your address
Changing your phone numbers (including mobile phone)
Changing your e-mail address
Changing employer/employment/school etc.
Permanently departing from Japan
An online data collection form is available for Swiss travelers and short-term residents: