Earthquake Safety In Japan: Earthquakes And TsunamisIf you travel to Japan or live in Japan for any length of time, you must think about earthquake safety. In Japan, earthquakes are a constant and looming threat. The country is infamous for them, and they could happen at any time. I literally think about earthquakes average once a day. I’ve felt them more times than I can count. Though, all the earthquakes I have experienced I have been sitting or lying down. If there has ever been an earthquake when I was walking or moving, I haven’t felt it. Still, it’s important to think about earthquake safety in Japan. Oh, and also tsunami safety because that’s a thing too.

Earthquake safety in Japan

Fortunately, Japan is quite advanced when it comes to earthquake preparation. For example, houses are engineered to withstand strong shaking, moving trains come to an immediate stop, and there are various ways to earthquake-proof your home. Nevertheless, earthquakes can still do damage, even in a country that is always expecting them. Add to this the chance of tsunamis and the fact that many people live along the coast, and the fears are multiplied. There’s not much you can do about a tsunami except get out of its way. On 11 March 2011, the Tohoku earthquake itself didn’t kill many people, but it was the following tsunami that really did a number.

Here are a few tips to help you prepare for an earthquake and/or tsunami in Japan.

Before an earthquake

  • Identify safe places in your home depending on whichever room you are in: tables, beds, interior walls, away from bookshelves, windows, or mirrors.
  • Practice emergency drills if you have children, until they can do it quickly.
  • Have an evacuation plan and meeting place, especially if you are in different places when the earthquake happens, and especially if there is a tsunami warning. Make sure everyone knows how to get there. If you live near the sea, this place should be on a hill or the top of a tall, strong building.
  • Learn how to turn off the gas line in your house and remember where the fire extinguisher is.
  • Learn basic first aid and CPR. You never know if you will need it.
  • It is good earthquake safety to build an emergency preparedness kit and an evacuation kit. Or you can buy a pre-made kit, like this 2-person one (US) or this 1-person kit (Japan).
  • Register with your embassy before you travel or live in Japan, so in the event of a major disaster your Country will know where you are and try and keep you safe.

Earthquake-proof your home

  • Secure large items to the wall. Japan has many tools to help you do this: brackets or chords.
  • Use non-slip mats to big prevent objects from sliding.
  • Put shatter preventing film over windows or mirrors, though I think Japanese windows are already shatter-proof.
  • Install latches to cabinet doors so breakable items don’t fly out.
  • Don’t put heavy hanging objects behind beds or seating areas

During an earthquake…?

If the earthquake is very strong, you won’t be able to walk or stand. You might not be able to move under a table, inside a door frame, or beside a counter. I can’t imagine how scary this would be. I don’t know what the final verdict is on how to stay safe during an earthquake. I’ve heard arguments for and against under tables, inside door frames, or in triangle shapes, i.e. beside a couch. I’ve heard to stay put where you are, and if you are in bed – stay there. I guess it depends where you are and what your surroundings are. Hopefully you are not in the shower, or taking a poop.


  • Try and get away from heavy things that could fall on you (bookshelves, televisions) and windows.
  • Stay calm, and don’t run around all over the place.

After an earthquake

Earthquake safety in Japan doesn’t stop just because the earthquake is finished. First of all, it might not be finished. There might be aftershocks, which can be just as bad. Also, tsunamis. Eeeek. Wait until the shaking has stopped before doing anything.

  • Check yourself for injuries…I’m going to assume you are fine.
  • Turn off the gas lines to prevent gas leaks and fires.
  • Grab your emergency kit, take the stairs, and quickly go outside.

Earthquake safety in Japan includes getting out of the way of tsunamis: Head toward your pre-decided meeting place or evacuation place, which should be on higher ground. You don’t know when a tsunami will come or if at all, but it is better to be safe than sorry. It might not take long to reach land either, so don’t dawdle. You might want to run as fast as your little legs can carry you. When you reach this place, wait. There might be another earthquake coming or another tsunami. There will probably be announcements on loud PA systems, or use your radio to learn what is going on and what you should do.

Aftershocks may continue to strike, even for months afterward. 🙁 They should be treated as serious earthquakes that may cause their own tsunamis.

Earthquake safety in Japan

This post only covers earthquake safety in Japan if you are at home. You also must think about the times you are not at home, for instance at work, school, or on the train. In those cases, you should still identify safe places and an evacuation plan. Definitely get away from the ocean or rivers. Most places in Japan regularly do drills. You might even want to prepare a small evacuation kit to leave at your work place.

You should also know the plans for other members of your family if you are not together when an earthquake happens. Don’t depend on being able to phone them immediately, but instead have a place where you plan to meet. Again, make sure it is high above sea level. If you live in a high earthquake and tsunami risk area, please take precautions to keep yourself safe. Also keep in mind, it’s much easier to protect yourself from an earthquake than a tsunami. In the case of a tsunami, all you can do is get out of its way, and it may come just a few minutes after the earthquake. Earthquakes and tsunamis are no joke. Do not waste time reaching higher ground.

Now you know how to prepare for an earthquake, what to do during an earthquake, and what to do after an earthquake. Don’t forget to register with your country’s embassy before you travel or live abroad. I hope this post was helpful, but I hope you never experience a bad earthquake. I hope I don’t either. Writing this post made me scared.

What do you do for earthquake safety in Japan? Or any other natural disaster, for that matter?

Earthquake Safety In Japan: Earthquakes And Tsunamis


  1. The thought of an earthquake is absolutely terrifying. I think practice drills would definitely help to prevent panic. I’m glad I live in a place that is not an earthquake zone but I always think of this when I’m going to other places. Especially ones that have a history of earthquakes.

    • It’s scary, right. Although Japan is in an earthquake zone, I’m a bit happier knowing buildings and people are well-prepared. I spent time in Chile a few years ago, which also gets earthquakes, but infrastructure is not as good as in Japan. It’s a bit scary living so close to sea level and the sea though.

  2. Wow. This post stopped me in my tracks and made me really think. We were lucky not to feel anything during our 3 months in Tokyo. Good job because I didn’t do any of this stuff. Stay safe, Jen.

    • …I haven’t done all of these things either. Some, but not all. They are more difficult to do if you are traveling rather than living here though.

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  6. Whenever I come across a blogger talking about disaster preparation I comment ‘well done’. And the multi lingual and graphical materials and advice in Japan are quite understandable for the non Japanese speaker.

    Being prepared is the right approach. Visitors also should be more appreciate of the risks, but without it restricting activity.

    Japan is a high hazard area and everyone must take notice of those risks. In eight short trips I have experienced 4 (small) earthquakes, the edge of a typhoon, and participated in a citizens disaster exercise in Hibiya Park, Tokyo. As an emergency service worker, I usually connect up with those folks somewhere to get a better appreciation of how Japan prepares for these events.

    • It is something that you have to think about all the time in Japan. I had orientation for my new school program today, and there was information about what to do in the event of a big earthquake. At least Japan is well prepared for an earthquake. I didn’t even think to mention typhoons. I haven’t experienced anything evacuation-level before. Thanks for your thoughtful comment.

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  8. Brian Detwiler Reply

    Alberta is historically earthquake resistant, but like many places with oil, fracting has actually make the earth unstable, and has created earthquakes! Nothing much bigger than a “4” so far, but it’s become a cause for concern in areas.

  9. I didn’t realise how frequently Japan has earthquakes, it’s scary to hear about it but for most of my Japanese colleagues, they’re so used to it that it’s just part of life.

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