What to do during Volcanic Eruptions in Japan
Thursday, March 12, 2020
Useful information to stay safe if you are in the vicinity of a volcanic activity in Japan.
The islands of Japan sit on a volcanic zone known as the Pacific Rim of Fire. Estimates suggest there are over 100 active volcanoes in Japan with 47 on Honshu (the main island of Japan) alone. The most famous of the active volcanoes is none other than the beloved Mt. Fuji. Despite its active status, over 200,000 people climbed Mt. Fuji in 2018, suggesting that the volcanic classification of the mountain does little to deter people’s holiday agendas. The most recent documented eruption was of Mount Asama on August 7 and 29, of 2019, but before that visitors could go skiing on its peaks and enjoy the natural hot springs nearby.
Whether living in Japan or traveling around Japan, it’s important to be aware of safety precautions and the established warning systems so you can stay safe during your travels. In this article we’ll discuss where to get accurate information during volcanic activity.
As with all natural disasters, alerts are sent out by the Japanese Meteorological Society (JMA) when volcanic activity is detected. Each disaster has different risk levels, ranked from 1 to 5, with 5 being the most dangerous situation. Here are the risk levels for volcanic activity:
While that’s a general look at the risk levels, the JMA also goes into detail about what precisely to do during volcanic activity.
Levels 1 through 2 don’t require any action, but levels 3 and 4 requires preparation for evacuation, and level 5 means it's time for immediate evacuation.
After potential volcanic activity is monitored, a warning will be issued to individual agencies that will then pass on that warning to residents near the crater. Warning announcements are sent to all phones in the area with a loud high-pitched sound that cannot be ignored. In addition, cars with speakers will be dispatched within the danger zones making announcements. If you don’t speak Japanese and cannot understand the situation, look out the window to see what people in the neighborhood are doing, and follow the crowd.
To keep yourself safe during an eruption do the following:
· Wear a helmet
· Distance yourself from the crater as soon as possible
· Cover mouth with towel to prevent volcanic ash or volcanic gas inhalation
There are lots of apps that will help you stay up to date on current natural disaster warnings with push notifications.
The JMA is constantly monitoring all kinds of activity in Japan, including weather, volcanic activity, tectonic plate movement (earthquakes), tsunamis, etc., so check their website here to see what the current risk levels are and where they are at any given time.
The Japan Tourism Agency has a variety of communication cards helpful Japanese phrases relating to emergency situations, and their translations into English, Korean, and Chinese. The cards are separated into 6 categories: If a disaster strikes, Asking about the safety of a present location, After evacuation 1 & 2, Medical treatment, Foreign language information, and Transportation. Below is an example of the "Asking about the safety of a present location" card. You can download all of them here.
It's always important to stay informed when living in Japan, despite the safety and security of this country, natural disasters do strike, often out of nowhere, so having an understanding of where to go and what to is integral to your safety and also your survival. Stay safe!
About the Author
I've been in love with Japan since I was twelve years old. After studying at Kansei Gakuin University and teaching for three years under the protection of Mount Tate in scenic Toyama prefecture (where you'll find the most beautiful Starbucks in the world), I returned stateside to attend Kent State University to get my Masters in Japanese Translation. Now I've been given the wonderful opportunity to intern at IZANAU for what's sure to be a glorious summer.