There are more than a dozen plates on the earth, and earthquakes are mainly caused by the shifting of these plates. Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone regions in the world because of the collision of four plates. In recent years, there have been about 2,000 earthquakes per year in Japan, or more than five per day. The number is even higher if we include small earthquakes that are not felt physically. Although Japanese buildings are relatively sturdy in case of major earthquakes, earthquake disasters not only collapse buildings, but also cause tsunamis, fires, landslides, cracks in the ground, debris from buildings causing injuries, and the loss of lifelines such as electricity, gas, water, transportation, and telephones.
The seismic intensity is a measure of the degree of shaking at a particular location. The seismic intensity announced by the Japan Meteorological Agency is measured on a 10-point scale from 0 to 7, with 5 and 6 divided into “strong” and “weak”. In Japan, this is the number that is generally given in news reports.
The magnitude indicates the scale of the earthquake itself. Therefore, the magnitude may be large even if the seismic intensity is small, and conversely, if the epicenter is close to the ground surface, the seismic intensity may be large even if the magnitude is small.
Preparing for earthquakes
Be prepared for earthquakes that may occur at any time, and make sure that your surroundings are safe on a daily basis.
✔Recognize the dangers in your house.
・Secure your furniture properly.
・Store light things on top and heavy things on the bottom. If you put things on top of shelves or other high places, they may fall down and be dangerous in the event of an earthquake.
・For large pieces of glass, such as windowpanes, cover them with transparent shatterproof film. Just keeping the curtains closed is also effective, so close them when you go to bed.
・Keep a pair of slippers or sneakers (clean, not used) near where you are sleeping. This is to avoid stepping on shards of glass or things scattered on the floor.
・Keep daily necessities such as glasses, smart phones, and other items needed for disaster evacuation activities near your bed when you go to sleep.
✔Check hazard maps and evacuation sites.
Check how likely the location of your property might have the earthquakes with the hazard map. You can refer to the website of the local city or town provides, but most of them are written in Japanese. The hazard map in English is available here.
✔Check your emergency supplies.
Prepare basic supplies for emergency, and gather all the items at one place or put everything in a emergency bag. You can purchase the emergency supply bag at home centers or online.
・Bottles of water
・Battery or battery charger
・First aid kit
✔Take out “Earthquake insurance”
When you purchase a house or rent a house, don’t forget to take out property insurance as well as earthquake insurance. Earthquake insurance is a supplementary policy to property insurance, so it is a prerequisite to purchase property insurance. Please take out earthquake insurance together with property insurance. Please see this page for more information about earthquake insurance.