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Japan Travel Guide: Staying Safe During Natural Disasters

When planning a trip to Japan, it’s important to be prepared for the possibility of natural disasters. Japan is known for its frequent earthquakes, typhoons, and volcanic activity. While these events are a part of life in Japan, there are steps you can take to stay safe and informed during your visit. In this comprehensive travel guide, we will explore the various resources and tools available to travelers to protect themselves from natural disasters in Japan.

Understanding the J-ALERT Emergency Broadcast System

One of the key resources for receiving timely information during emergencies in Japan is the J-ALERT emergency broadcast system. Launched in 2004, J-ALERT is an automatic alert system used by the government to disseminate information to the public in cases of natural disasters or attacks on Japan. The system works through satellite and national equipment set up across the country.

When an emergency situation occurs, such as an earthquake, tsunami, or missile attack, the Fire and Disaster Management Agency (FDMA) receives the information and transmits it to J-ALERT receivers via satellite and backup terrestrial circuits. The information is then relayed nationwide through various channels, including announcements from speakers mounted on towers and buildings, alerts on TVs and radios, and push alerts on mobile phones.

Accessing J-ALERT Alerts

To receive J-ALERT alerts, it is recommended to install the “NHK World TV” app on your iOS or Android device. This app allows you to opt-in to receive alerts for earthquakes, tsunamis, and breaking news. By setting up notifications within the app, you can stay informed about any emergency situations in real-time.

Safety Tips App: Your Comprehensive Disaster Guide

Another essential app to have on your phone while in Japan is the Safety Tips app. Available for both iOS and Android devices, this app provides crucial information and alerts related to weather warnings, earthquake early warnings, volcanic warnings, tsunami warnings, heat stroke warnings, and civil protection information issued in Japan.

The Safety Tips app offers easy-to-understand information and instructions on what to do during various emergencies. It includes features such as evacuation flowcharts, helpful phrases for obtaining information from locals, and website links with additional disaster preparedness resources. By having this app on your phone, you can be well-prepared and ready to respond appropriately in case of a natural disaster.

Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP)

Before your trip to Japan, it’s highly recommended to sign up for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) offered by the U.S. Department of State. This free program allows U.S. citizens to register their travel plans and contact information with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Japan. In the event of an emergency, the embassy can use this information to communicate with you and provide assistance.

Signing up for STEP also ensures that you receive the most up-to-date travel and security information from the U.S. government. This includes alerts and advisories related to natural disasters or any other significant events that may affect your travel plans in Japan.

Safety Tips for Foreigners

In addition to the Safety Tips app, the Japan Tourism Organization provides a comprehensive guide called “Safety Tips for Foreigners.” This guide offers valuable information on how to stay safe and prepared during your stay in Japan. It covers a wide range of topics, including general safety tips, emergency contacts, transportation safety, and cultural considerations.

The guide emphasizes the importance of being aware of your surroundings and taking necessary precautions to ensure your safety. It also provides guidance on how to handle various situations, such as lost passports or credit cards due to theft. By familiarizing yourself with these safety tips, you can navigate Japan with confidence and peace of mind.

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Emergency Bag and Stockpiling Supplies

When preparing for a trip to Japan, it’s essential to consider the importance of having an emergency bag and stockpiling essential supplies. In the event of a natural disaster, having these items readily available can make a significant difference in your safety and well-being.

The Japan Tourism Organization provides detailed guidelines on what to include in your emergency bag. This includes essentials such as non-perishable food, water, first aid supplies, flashlights, batteries, a portable radio, and a whistle. It’s also recommended to have a copy of important documents, such as your passport and travel insurance information, stored in a waterproof bag.

Additionally, it’s advisable to stockpile additional food and water supplies in case of prolonged emergencies. The Japan Tourism Organization offers guidance on the recommended amount of supplies to have on hand and how to store them properly. By following these guidelines, you can be well-prepared and self-sufficient during a natural disaster.

Useful Websites for Emergency Information

In addition to the apps mentioned earlier, several websites provide valuable information and updates during emergency situations in Japan. The official website of the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) offers real-time information on earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanic activity, and severe weather conditions. The JMA website provides detailed reports, maps, and advisories to keep you informed about any potential risks.

Another useful website is the Japan National Tourism Organization’s (JNTO) “Safety Tips” page. This page offers comprehensive information on safety and emergency preparedness, including tips on what to do during earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as links to relevant apps and resources.

Local Resources: Koban and Emergency Contacts

While technology and apps are essential tools for staying informed during emergencies, it’s also crucial to be aware of local resources and emergency contacts. In Japan, you will find small police boxes called “koban” located throughout neighborhoods. These koban are manned by police officers who can provide assistance and information during emergencies. If you need help or have any concerns, don’t hesitate to approach a koban and seek assistance.

Furthermore, it’s important to familiarize yourself with emergency contact numbers in Japan. The Japan National Tourism Organization provides a list of emergency numbers on their website, including police, ambulance, and fire department contacts. By having these numbers readily available, you can quickly reach out for help when needed.


Traveling to Japan offers incredible experiences, but it’s important to be prepared and informed about potential natural disasters. By utilizing resources such as the J-ALERT emergency broadcast system, the Safety Tips app, and the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, you can ensure your safety and stay updated during emergencies. Remember to also have an emergency bag, stockpile essential supplies, and familiarize yourself with local resources and emergency contact numbers. With these precautions in place, you can enjoy your trip to Japan with peace of mind, knowing that you are well-prepared for any situation that may arise.

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