Recent events in and around Japan including natural disasters like the series of earthquakes in March of 2016, the active typhoon season of 2015, volcanic eruptions, and various events transpiring in neighboring nations should remind U.S. citizens living and traveling in Japan of the importance of staying connected and having access to late breaking local emergency information. The following are suggestions on how you can keep you and your loved ones informed and safe during your time in Japan.
Crisis Information is Practically Everywhere in Japan
During your time in Japan, you may see alerts for events as diverse as heavy rain, excessive heat, landslides, and earthquakes. Make the U.S. Embassy’s web site your first stop: it has an extensive list of emergency resources.
The Japanese government uses a variety of avenues to reach people in affected regions. For example, during a Japanese television program, an alarm may chime, and an alert may scroll across the top of the screen for a minute or so. In some communities, loudspeakers outside may blast warnings as well. These are parts of the Japanese Government’s “J-Alert” system that sends crisis information to the public. J-Alert even pushes messages to radios and cellphones. The Japan Meteorological Agency, a primary source for many of the crisis alerts in Japan, has a webpage in English. If you can’t understand Japanese but are hearing or seeing these messages, pay attention and ask people around you what it means – it may be very helpful!
Establish Your Personal Social Network – Get to Know People Around You
Whether you have been living in Japan one day or 1,000 days, many times the best information comes from people in your network of local and expatriate friends, acquaintances and business contacts. This is especially important if you are unable to read and speak Japanese. If you’re a tourist, your social network could be as simple as the front desk in your hotel or even the cashier at the local coffee shop!
Social Media Can Be a Supplemental Source of Useful Information
Social Media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can be useful platforms for timely updates. Visit the websites of the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or the U.S. Consulate near you to learn how to sign up for our official feeds. These can be helpful supplements to information sent through the Department of State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program – STEP. See the end of this message for a list of the Consulates in Japan, their locations, and their contact information.
Japanese Government–Provided Safety Information is Available Through an App, and in English
The Government of Japan’s National Tourism Organization (JNTO) has made available an android and iPhone app called “Safety tips” that “pushes” information alerts to users about disasters in multiple languages, including English! For more information about this app, check out the JNTO website for more information.
Your Smartphone May Be a Vital Life Line
If you have a smartphone with a contract to a local Japanese mobile provider, you may already be able to receive safety alerts as a text message through your cell phone. Check with your local provider as this typically requires a unique email address associated with your mobile account. If you do have this capability through your provider, you may be able to also get this information in English.
Information on the Radio
Japan’s cellular network is very resilient, and can be expected to remain in service even after a major earthquake with minimal interruptions; however, if cell service isn’t available after a disaster, you can receive emergency information in English over local radio stations such as AFN (American Forces Network) or InterFM (English language news alerts). Some stations to monitor are:
- AFN Tokyo (810kHz, AM)
- AFN Iwakuni (1575kHz, AM)
- AFN Sasebo (1575kHz, AM)
- AFN Okinawa (89.1MHz, FM)
Personal Preparedness Starts at Home
Once a disaster happens, it’s too late to prepare. Get your “Go Bag” together and work with your family to come up with a plan to communicate and find each other in the case of a crisis. Don’t forget about your pets when making plans! For ideas on how to stock your “Go Bag” or emergency kit, visit FEMA’s website and the White House’s page on the 2016 Hurricane Season. Tourists should visit the Department of State’s Traveler’s Checklist for ideas on how to have a safe trip.
Disaster Prevention (Bousai) Information May Be Available from Your Local Government
Your local municipality may already have Disaster Prevention (“Bousai” or “Bosai” in Japanese) information ready for residents and visitors online. Prefectural, city, and even ward-office disaster prevention and preparedness information may be in English, or have links to other useful resources. Below is a selected list of Disaster Prevention websites for major population centers in Japan. There may be many more resources available to you. Do a web search with the word “bousai” and the town or region you are interested in, and you may even find information in English!
Tokyo Metropolitan Area:
For further information:
- See the State Department’s travel website for the Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and Japan Country Specific Information.
- Enroll in the Smart Traveler-Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security messages and make it easier to locate you in an emergency.
- For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of either the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or one of the U.S. Consulates in Japan.
U.S. Embassy Tokyo
American Citizen Services
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420
After Hours: 03-3224-5000
The U.S. Embassy serves Americans in Tokyo, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Yamagata and Yamanashi.
11-5, Nishitenma 2-chome, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543
Serving Americans in Osaka, Aichi, Ehime, Fukui, Gifu, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Ishikawa, Kagawa, Kochi, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Okayama, Shimane, Shiga, Tokushima, Tottori, Toyama, and Wakayama prefectures.
Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor, 1-47-1 Nagono, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-0001
Tel (052) 581-4501
Fax: (052) 581-3190
Providing emergency consular services only (including death and arrest cases) for Americans living in Aichi, Gifu, and Mie prefectures.
5-26, Ohori 2-chome, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052
Serving Americans in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga and Yamaguchi prefectures.
Kita 1-jo, Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821
Serving Americans in Akita, Aomori, Hokkaido, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.
2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe City, Okinawa 901-2104
Serving Americans in Okinawa and the Amami Oshima Island group.