Tokyo Earthquake Disaster

Tokyo Earthquake Disaster 東京大震災

Tokyo Earthquake.

Roughly 20% of the world's earthquakes happen in Japan. And since 1891, there have been 9 quakes in excess of 7.0 on the Richter scale in Japan. On any day, an average of half a dozen tremors are recorded somewhere in the Japanese archipelago. Major quakes in Japanese history have been responsible for enormous destruction of property and loss of life. More or less recent ones have been:

  • the Genroku Earthquake of December 31, 1703, which hit Tokyo (then called Edo) and killed at least 2,000 people outright, subsequent tidal waves, or tsunami, generated by the quake, causing an additional 100,000 or so deaths.
  • the Zenkoji Earthquake of May 8, 1847, resulting in over 8,500 deaths in Nagano prefecture (then known as Shinshu).
  • the Ansei-Edo Earthquake of November 11, 1855, that struck Tokyo, measuring about 7 on the Richter scale, destroying over 14,000 buildings by movement or subsequent fire, and causing at least 8,000 deaths.
  • the Mino-Owari Earthquake of October 28, 1891, one of the world's biggest earthquakes ever, measuring over 8 on the Richter scale, which hit Aichi (and its biggest city, Nagoya) and Gifu prefectures (and, to a lesser extent neighboring Shiga and Fukui prefectures) causing over 7,000 deaths and 17,000 casualties, and destroying over 140,000 dwellings.
  • the Great Kanto (Tokyo) Earthquake of September 1, 1923, that hit Tokyo on that measured between 7.9 and 8.4 on the Richter scale, causing a total of over 100,000 deaths and leaving almost 2 million homeless.
  • the Great Hanshin Earthquake (officially known as the Southern Hyogo Prefecture Earthquake) of January 17, 1995, that struck Hyogo Prefecture, most notably the city of Kobe, measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, and causing 6,434 casualties.
  • the Tohoku Earthquake of March 11, 2011, that struck in the western Pacific Ocean about 72 km from the Tohoku region. With a magnitude of 9.0, it was Japan's most destructive in recorded history, killing tens of thousands in the Tohoku region. It had a magnitude of upper 5 in Tokyo, destroyed about 30 buildings in the greater Tokyo region, and damaged over a thousand.
  • Continued below: What to do in an earthquake



    Be prepared for an earthquake

    Hinanjo, or earthquake disaster evacuation areas

    Every neighborhood in Japan has a hinanjo, or disaster evacuation area, usually an elementary or junior high school. Establish the location of the hinanjo disaster evacuation area nearest your home or office. The following links set out such locations for Japan's 12 biggest cities, starting with Tokyo. (Unfortunately, all but one are in Japanese, so get a Japanese person to help you if necessary.)

    Tokyo earthquake evacuation areas

    Yokohama earthquake evacuation areas

    Osaka earthquake evacuation areas

    Nagoya earthquake evacuation areas

    Sapporo earthquake evacuation areas

    Kobe earthquake evacuation areas

    Kyoto earthquake evacuation areas

    Fukuoka earthquake evacuation areas

    Kawasaki earthquake evacuation areas

    Hiroshima earthquake evacuation areas

    Kitakyushu earthquake evacuation areas

    Sendai earthquake evacuation areas

    Tokyo earthquake - be prepared

    A major earthquake may well cut off electricity and water supplies, and make shopping impossible; therefore, it is highly recommended that you keep an earthquake emergency kit permanently on hand.

    Earthquake disaster emergency kit

    The ideal emergency kit is a backpack containing at least the following:

  • bottled water
  • a blanket
  • a vinyl sheet
  • an inflatable pillow
  • canned/dried food, crackers
  • a can opener
  • a flashlight
  • extra batteries for the flashlight
  • a radio (go to non-Japanese emergency radio broadcast details)
  • a pen/pencil
  • a notebook (if possible, write important telephone numbers in it, such as that of your national embassy in Japan, your company, and friends and family)
  • plasters
  • medicines (aspirin, cold tablets, ointment, etc.)
  • a roll of cloth tape
  • 100 yen coins for public telephones (in principle, free during emergencies, but may be necessary. Gray and green public phones are designed to be usable even during disaster. Telephone cards not usable during power outage. How to use the NTT Disaster Message Service)
  • Keep the emergency kit accessible at all times in, for example, a corner of a room or your entranceway.

    If possible, keep your passport, alien registration card, insurance card, cash, bonds, etc. handy in one place for quick evacuation.

    Also, make sure you know exactly where the nearest fire extinguisher is, and how to use it.

    Earthquake disaster information by radio

    Keeping a radio with you in the aftermath of an earthquake disaster in Tokyo or elsewhere will help you keep in touch with the latest reliable news, and serve as a defense against rumor-mongering.

    The non-Japanese stations you can tune into are as follows:
    FM radio

    InterFM - 76.1 MHz (English, Japanese, French, Chinese, Korean, Indonesian, Tagalog, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai)

    AM radio

    NHK - 695 KHz (Japanese, English)
    AFN - 810 KHz (English)

    What to do in an earthquake

    One of the most useful things you can do about an earthquake should be done before it happens. Falling furniture and accessories are a major cause of earthquake injury, so take precautions to minimize the risk of their toppling.

    When an earthquake strikes
    1. Seek shelter immediately under a table, desk, or near a pillar.
    2. As soon as is practicable, open a door or other means of access to the outside before it jams.
    3. Do not go outside immediately, but wait till the quake is over. It is usually safer inside than outside.
    4. Extinguish any fires or gas flames, and turn off your electricity. (If possible, this should be done first, at the sign of even the most minor tremor.)
    5. If a fire breaks out, yell "Kaji da! Kaji da!" ("Fire! Fire!") as soon as you can, and attack the base of the fire with water, a fire extinguisher, or anything else at hand that can be used to smother it.

    NTT Disaster Message Service: 171

    Japan's telephone provider, NTT, operates the NTT Disaster Message Service which allows you to leave messages for people during a disaster, even if they cannot be contacted immediately. Please note that the automatic guidance is in Japanese.

    How to use the NTT Disaster Message Service

    To leave a message for someone
    1. Dial 171
    2. Dial 1
    3. Dial the number of the party you are trying to contact
    4. Dial 1 then #
    5. Record your message
    6. Dial 9 then # to confirm your message
    7. Hang up

    To check whether someone has left you a message
    1. Dial 171
    2. Dial 2
    3. Dial the number of the party who may have left you a message
    4. Dial 1 then #
    5. Listen to the message, if any. Do not hang up immediately after the first message. There may be multiple messages.
    6. Hang up

    National Disaster Prevention Day in Japan

    Finally, September 1 is Japan's National Disaster Prevention Day, or Bohsai no Hi, in Japanese. It dates from 1960, and was established to ensure maximum readiness for disaster. The significance of the date lies in its being the date of the Great Kanto (Tokyo) Earthquake of 1923.

    It is also often the date on which ni-hyaku tohka falls. Ni-hyaku tohka, literally "210th", is the 210th day after Risshun no Hi, or the "Start-of-Spring Day" (around February 4), and is traditionally considered a time when inclement weather, typhoons in particular, is likely, and therefore a time for extra caution.


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