Living Infomation

Comprehensive Living Guide for Foreign Residents in Japan

Top page >What to Do in Case of Emergency


Japan is an earthquake-prone country. To minimize damage caused by an earthquake it is important to be prepared: have emergency items on hand and secure furniture to prevent it from falling. It is important to have an action plan in case of a large earthquake.

Getting ready for an earthquake
Emergency items to be stocked at home

Gather together whatever you may need to use during an evacuation, and place it all in emergency bags such as rucksacks, etc. Having done so, make sure that all family members know where the emergency bags are kept. The contents of such bags should be limited to those necessary items that you and your family can personally carry to an evacuation center. Please prepare your emergency bags in accordance with the needs of your family and yourself.

An example of what might be placed in emergency bags

  • Flashlight
    Spare batteries

  • Radio
    Spare batteries

  • Mobile phone

  • Lighter

  • Drinking

  • Ready-to-eat

  • Helmets

  • Thick cotton

  • Clothing
    Underwear, socks

  • Towel

  • Wet tissues

  • Plastic bags

  • Disposable pocket warmers (kairo)

  • Pens and

  • Emergency

  • Copy of Passport &
    residence card

Keep the following items in a place where you can easily locate them to take with you

  • Cash

  • Bankbooks,
    Personal seals

  • Medicines,
    Medicine notebooks
You also need to keep drinking water, approximately 2 to 3 liters per person per day.
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Daily Stockpiles

In the event of an epicentral earthquake occurring in the Tokyo Metropolitan area, citizens whose homes are still intact are to take refuge in their homes. However, it is possible that electricity, gas, and water will be unavailable, and the supply of goods will be halted due to rubble covering the roads. Daily stockpiles of food and daily necessities will become important in order to survive until lifelines and the distribution of goods can be recovered.

It might be difficult for householders to think in terms of preparing a special stockpile of items that are to be used during times of disaster. However, such concerns can be easily alleviated by simply taking steps to buy a little bit more of those foodstuffs and daily necessities that your family normally uses.

Points to consider when stockpiling are as follows:

  • Purchase extra food and daily necessities.
  • Use older products first in daily life.
  • Replace food and items that have been eaten or used, and maintain a constant surplus.

By repeating this cycle, you may be able to survive at home for a period of time using these stockpiles in the event of a disaster.

Pay attention to safety measures for your home.

Do not leave objects near doors, hallways, and/or staircases.

Do not put anything heavy or breakable on the top of furniture.

Secure furniture to prevent it from falling. It is also recommendable to secure TVs, personal computers and stereo units.

Ensure there is non-slip material under articles placed on furniture to prevent them from slipping off.
Take steps to prevent fires.

Unplug electrical appliances after use.

Use kerosene/gas stoves and heaters with an auto-shutdown function that reacts to earthquakes and falls.

Never use anything other than kerosene for kerosene stoves/heaters.

Always keep enough space between a fire source, such as a cooking stove, and furniture.
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Check the safety of your house.
  • Check the roof of your house to see if any tiles are loose or if the antennas are unstable.
  • If your house uses propane gas, secure the gas tank with chains.
  • Make sure flowerpots or any other objects on a balcony/veranda can't fall down.
Be informed about local evacuation area

In the event of an earthquake, evacuation areas are pre-determined, and depend on the area where you live. Confirm where the pre-determined evacuation area relevant to you is.

What to do to alleviate commuter distress

When the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011, much of the public transit system was shut down, including railways and buses in the metropolitan area. As a result more than five million stranded people were prevented from returning home and crowded areas near train stations and adjoining streets.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government (TMG) enacted the "Metropolitan Tokyo Ordinance on Measures for Stranded Persons" in order that the public observe the rule to "not start moving too early" after the occurrence of earthquake.

The points of the ordinance are summarized as follows.

(Main Activities by Tokyo Residents)

  • Talk with your families ahead of time and establish several means to contact each other.
  • Do not move unnecessarily or too early and try to remain at your workplace or current location after confirming safety.

(Main Activities of Businesses)

  • Have employees and others stay in the workplace after making sure the facilities are safe.
  • Store enough water, food, and other supplies for 3 days.
  • Railroad companies and administrators of facilities where customers gather will strive to protect users by having them stay in the station or facility or by guiding them to a safe location.
  • When a disaster occurs, school administrators and others will strive to keep the children, students, and others safe by having them stay in the facility, etc.
What to do in case of earthquake
If you are at home:
  • Do not move until the main quake ceases.
  • Protect yourself by sheltering under a table. If there is no place to hide, protect your head with a pillow or a cushion.

  • Turn off all heat sources immediately.
  • After the main shock calms down, immediately turn off the gas appliances as well as heating appliances. Anything that could cause a fire should be turned off.

  • Secure a way to evacuate the premises.
  • Open the doors of rooms and the entrance of the house. It is not safe to walk bare feet even in the interior of a house. Always wear shoes. There could be broken glass or other dangerous objects strewn on the floor.

  • Do not become panicked by aftershocks.
  • It is possible that small shakes (aftershocks) may occur following the main quake. Remember to stay calm even when you feel the aftershocks.

  • Get ready to evacuate.
  • Before you leave the house, make sure you shut off the gas supply valve as well as the circuit breaker, in order to prevent fires. If you are in a building, always use the stairs to evacuate. You should not use elevators.

  • Evacuate on foot.
  • You should always walk when you evacuate. Never use cars, motorcycles or bicycles. Do not try to take more than you need for emergency survival.

The Earthquake Early Warning or Kinkyu Jishin Sokuho is issued by The Japan Meteorological Agency, immediately after it detects the occurrence of earthquakes with a seismic intensity of 5 lower and over. (There may take a few seconds delay between the Early Warning and the earthquake.) Ensure your safety as soon as you see or hear the warning on TV, radio or mobile phone.
If you are away from home:
  • In a residential area
  • Stay away from gates and concrete block walls if you are in a residential area at the time of an earthquake.

  • In the city center:
  • As debris such as broken window glass or signboards may fall, protect your head with your bag or a similar object. Find an open area or a park to which you should evacuate.

  • Do not approach vending machines, utility poles or downed power lines.
  • You should stay away from vending machines, utility poles and downed power lines.

  • Do not go near cliffs or riverbanks.
  • You should stay away from cliffs and riverbanks since they could collapse at any moment.

  • In a high-rise building:
  • Evacuate from the building by using the stairs. You should never use elevators.

  • In an underground mall:
  • Protect your head with your bags or clothes. After the main shock ceases, head toward an exit on the ground level. Since many people may rush to and crowd the exit, you should be careful to avoid falling and being trampled by others.

  • In an elevator:
  • If the elevator is equipped with an earthquake sensor, it will stop automatically at the nearest floor when the quake occurs. You should get off the elevator immediately and use the stairs to evacuate. If the elevator is not equipped with this sensor, it won't stop by itself; you should push every floor button and get off at any floor it first stops at and then use a staircase to evacuate. If the door doesn't open, use the emergency feature available in the elevator such as a phone, button or bell to inform someone outside that you are trapped. Do not try to force the door to open from inside until the rescue service arrives.

  • On a train:
  • If you are standing on a train, grab a strap or bar to prevent yourself from falling. After the train stops, you should stay calm and wait for instructions from the conductor; without instructions, do not attempt to get out of the train by unlocking the emergency door lock or by jumping out from the window.

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If you are driving a car
  • Slow down, stop the car and turn off the engine.
  • Holding the steering wheel firmly, slow down and stop the car on the left side of the road and turn off the engine.

  • Wait in the car and listen to the radio until the quake ceases.
  • You should stay in the car and listen to the radio for earthquake information until the quake ceases.

  • Follow the directions given by the police.
  • If you see the traffic being controlled by the police, follow their directions.

  • Leave the key in the car and the doors unlocked.
  • When you leave the car to evacuate on foot, leave the key in the car and the doors unlocked.

What to do after an earthquake
  • Collect accurate information.
  • Try to collect accurate information by yourself until the confusion calms down in your area. Listen to the news on TV and radio to stay correctly informed. After a major earthquake, it is possible to be misinformed owing to rumors and hearsay.

  • It is important to evacuate to a designated shelter.
  • It is known that people who use their car as a shelter after a disaster may suffer from a condition known as economy-class syndrome (deep-vein thrombosis). It is important to evacuate to a designated shelter according to the local authority's directions.

  • Use an aid station to return home.
  • If a major earthquake happens while you are away from home, you may have to walk to return home, as public transport such as trains or buses may not be available. To assist those who need to walk home during such time, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government has designated 16 major roads as “aid roads”, with convenience stores, family restaurants, public high schools and gas stations around these roads serving as "aid stations" to provide water, restrooms and necessary information.

  • Emergency Message Dial
  • The "Emergency Message Dial" service allows a person in an earthquake-damaged area to record his/her own message, which can be retrieved by others who wish to know the whereabouts of that person. This is a temporary service and NTT will announce the beginning of the service on TV and radio. It also features a service that uses mobile phones and the Internet to ascertain the safety of those in the area of the disaster.

Top page >What to Do in Case of Emergency
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