Japan Floods 2018: How To Help

Flooding and landslides have devastated parts of western Japan, resulting in the highest death toll caused by heavy rainfall in over 3 decades.

Current situation (numbers accurate as of 10 July):

Source: JMA
  • 150+ casualties
  • 80+ people missing
  • 350 homes completely destroyed
  • 10,000 homes flooded
  • At its peak, over 2 million people were told to evacuate their homes.

How can you help?

It’s human nature to want to help after seeing people suffer. But sometimes trying to do good can inadvertently do harm — and in emergency situations, good intentions must be accompanied by effective, well-thought-out actions. The 2011 tsunami and subsequent disasters such as the 2016 Kumamoto earthquake have taught us a lot about how to respond effectively to disasters in Japan.So… with that in mind, here’s an outline of things you can do, things to consider, and things to avoid, when trying to help.


1. Don’t Send Stuff (Yet)


  • Search & Rescue is still under way, with life-saving as the top priority. This is not the time to be sending things like blankets, food and water (unless you have identified a very, very specific need with a local person or organisation who can properly deliver, store and manage the supplies responsibly).
  • Many NGOs are on the ground doing needs assessments — in the coming days and weeks, they will likely start calling for certain items, once the situation has stabilized a little more and logistical capacity (e.g. roads) have recovered.

2. Volunteer (when the time is right)


Source: Peace Boat
  • Unless you are a trained and experienced responder affiliated with a recognised organisation, don’t go to affected areas for now. This is not the time to be “self-mobilizing”, for the reasons mentioned above. It is simply too early, and uncoordinated “help” may actually hamper rescue efforts.
  • Many nonprofits, local governments, and social welfare councils (社会福祉協議会)will likely start calling for volunteers in the coming weeks, once they are ready and able to take in and coordinate volunteers safely.
  • When that time comes, make sure you get Disaster Volunteer insurancefrom your local government office, and be as self-sufficient as possible (local resources such as accommodation, food, and water must go to survivors first and foremost, so ensure that you’re thoroughly prepared).
  • Check the National Social Welfare Council website (Japanese only) for updates on disaster volunteer centres in the affected areas.
  • Some nonprofits may start calling for volunteers (e.g. Peace BoatIDRO JapanUnited Earth, & It’s Not Just Mud) but this will take more time.

3. Donate 

  • Right now, donating money is the easiest and most effective way to support survivors.
  • Personally, and having worked full-time in this industry for several years, I recommend donating directly to smaller organisations on the ground, as opposed to larger organisations or general funds, as they tend to be leaner and have higher operational efficiency (but that’s up to you).

Here are a few English-language options:

  1. NGO Peace Boat
    Japan-based nonprofit doing relief work domestically and internationally.
  2. Japan Platform: Western Japan Disaster
    Consortium of NGOs, businesses, and government agencies which disperses funds to member organisations in Japan.
  3. GlobalGiving: Flood & Landslide Relief in Japan
    Crowdfunding platform which disperses funds to member organisations in Japan.
  4. Japan Israaid Support Program (JISP)
    Israeli nonprofit based in Japan.
  5. Go Fund Me: West Japan Flood Victims
    Fundraiser organised by an individual living in Okayama Prefecture.
  6. The Mainichi
    Mainichi Newspapers is accepting domestic donations in Japanese yen.
  7. Rakuten
    The e-commerce juggernaut is also collecting donations in English.

Japanese-language donation pages:

Of course, there are also many, many more options for donating if you can read Japanese and have a Japanese bank account/credit card.

This list from JANIC gives a comprehensive outline of some established groups who are accepting donations.

You can also donate via the popular messaging platform LINE, search engine Yahoo, crowdfunding platform Campfire, and even the “hometown tax” system Furusato Choice.

Other Useful Links

1. Google Person Finder for Japan
2. J-ANPI (Searches personal safety info registered in its database or Google Person
Finder, by name or phone number)
3. DisasterMessage Board Web 171 by NTT
4. Japan Meteorological Agency (up-to-date weather info)
5. Getting a Disaster Victim Certificate
6. Legal Information for Foreign Nationals (Multi-lingual)
7. List of websites offering natural disaster info in English
8. Updates in English & Japanese from NGO Peace Boat
9. Typhoon & Rainstorms Safety Guide: Fire & Disaster Management Agency


To read more about disaster resilience in Japan, see “6 Things NOT to do after an earthquake in Japan” or “Preparing your Emergency Bag in Japan”. You can also see the Explore Tohoku project – stories from a 600km walk along Japan’s tsunami-affected coastline to document the region’s recovery. 

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