Japan is a country with many earthquakes (地震, jishin)–the Great East Japan Earthquake being the largest in recorded Japanese history. Both minor and sizable tremors occur everyday, and it is impossible to know exactly when the next major quake will strike, so it is vital to always be prepared.

震度 (Shindo) Scale

Japan uses the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) seismic intensity scale, sometimes referred to as the 震度 (shindo) scale. It is a measure of the degree of shaking at a point on the Earth’s surface, and it usually differs from the moment of magnitude (a.k.a. Richter) scale used in other seismological readings. Below is a visual guide to the scale as published by Niigata Prefecture.

Shindo Seismic Intensity Scale

Before an Earthquake

  • Prepare a getaway kit.
  • Make sure that household items are secure and stable in your home.
  • Know the locations of evacuation shelters in your area.

During an Earthquake

  • Duck and cover: get under a strong desk or doorway, and protect your head from falling objects.
  • In public places (shopping centers, etc.), move away from display stands and things that can shatter/break.
  • Stay inside: the external walls of buildings are most dangerous–windows, fittings, and roof tiles can break and fall.
  • When driving, pull over and stop, but do not get out of the vehicle.

After an Earthquake

  • Turn off all appliances and utilities that have potential to ignite a fire.
  • Open a door and secure it open with something heavy.
  • Follow the directions of town officials.
  • Contact your embassy to let them know about your condition.
  • Contact your Block Leader and/or a Prefectural Advisor to let them know about your condition.
  • If your home is badly damaged, proceed to the nearest evacuation shelter.
  • Take your getaway kit.

More Information

Niigata Prefecture has put together an English-language guide about Earthquake Safety for You and Your Family with useful information on safety and evacuation procedures. You can view the brochure using the above link or by visiting the following website: Pamphlet About Disaster Prevention.

You can also find the latest earthquake reports by visiting the Yahoo! Japan 地震情報 (Earthquake Information) page (Japanese only) or the United States Geological Survey’s Earthquakes page.


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