Whether you’re living in or traveling through Japan, your smartphone can be an invaluable resource to protect you from natural disasters and help you during crises.
Here’s a list of 8 apps that can help you prepare for and respond to natural disasters and other emergencies in Japan.
1. Yurukeru Call
Yurukeru Call, symbolised by a cute namazu catfish (the ancient Japanese symbol of earthquakes), is one of Japan’s most popular disaster-related apps. This app provides users with earthquake early warnings via push notifications, and enables them to see real-time information on a custom-made map. Yurukeru Call boasts over 5 million users in Japan, and the app is offered in English. Users can also share, in real-time, how much shaking they felt after an earthquake in their specific location.
2. Safety Tips (by Japan Tourism Agency)
This app, created by the Japan Tourism Agency, is targeted towards tourists in Japan. It provides alerts for earthquakes of a seismic intensity of 4 or more, as well as tsunami warnings. If offers evacuation flowcharts showing how to react immediately after a disaster, as well as communication cards with handy phrases and website links that contain helpful disaster-related information.
3. Japan AED Map
This app enables users to locate their nearest Automated External Defibrillator (AED). An AED is an easy-to-use, portable electronic device that delivers an electric shock through the chest to the heart. The devices can be used to help those experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, by first analyzing the victim’s heart rhythm and, if necessary, deliver an electrical shock (defibrillation) to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm. In Japan, these devices can be found in various places including convenient stores and public facilities.
4. Pocket Shelter
This is an app that combines tourism and disaster prevention. It provides information on over 100,000 restaurants, sightseeing spots, restrooms, etc and also displays the nearest evacuation points. It can be used offline (after downloading map data), and kicks into disaster prevention mode during an emergency, displaying critical information in several languages. Pocket Shelter also helps you to move to a safe place immediately after a disaster (even if offline), and is able to send confirmation of your safety to your loved ones in the event of a major disaster.
5. NHK World TV
From February 2018, NHK World – an English news channel provided by Japan’s public broadcaster – began to offer travelers and residents emergency warnings on their smartphones in English. After downloading the free NHK World TV app, users can choose to turn on notifications for earthquake and tsunami warnings, as well as breaking news alerts which include volcanic eruptions and typhoons. Notifications are available only in English for now, but NHK plans to introduce Chinese-language services in the near future.
6. Japan Shelter Guide
Japan Shelter Guide is an app that enables users to locate their nearest shelter, medical facility, and even water supply (it displays 100,000+ locations throughout Japan). It also provides up-to-date and accurate information on extreme weather events, earthquakes, and tsunami warnings from the Japan Weather Association, as well as other useful information during emergencies.
Japan’s top mobile messaging service, famous for its collection of weird and wonderful stickers, was invented in the wake of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Immediately after, those in and around the disaster zone had no way of calling their loved ones, since phone lines were down. This experience prompted employees of NHN Japan to create a way for people to contact family during crises, leading to the invention of “LINE”. With free calls, it’s a handy way to stay in touch during an emergency, when phone lines are jammed. LINE is also often used as a platform to raise funds for disaster-affected areas in Japan and around the world.
Platform: iOS, Android
Language: English, Arabic, French, German, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Turkish, Vietnamese
8. Tokyo Disaster Preparedness
A follow-on from the immensely popular “Tokyo Disaster Preparedness Guide” by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, this free smartphone app enables users to both learn about disaster preparedness and respond appropriately in the case of an emergency. The app is equipped with disaster prevention maps, quizzes, simulations and even an emergency alarm that notifies your whereabouts to pre-registered people during an emergency. It also provides up-to-date information on extreme weather, volcanoes, evacuation advisories, etc., as well as useful phrases that can be used during emergencies in multiple languages.
Platform: iOS, Android
Language: English, Japanese, Korean, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese