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October – Facing Natural Disasters

The world has been suffering numerous disasters this summer. From south to north, the Japanese archipelago was also hit by typhoons, floods, landslides, and earthquakes, leaving a huge scar. Disasters also bring about secondary damages like blackouts and power shortages in wide areas, affecting many spheres of daily life. In case of earthquakes, there would be several aftershocks. Volunteers from around Japan are traveling to disaster-stricken areas to help clear away the debris and to make homes livable again.


Although Japan is trying to raise disaster awareness by developing earthquake alarms on cell phones, urgent disaster information is mostly in Japanese. To prepare for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, many international residents hope for an “official” multilingual disaster app covering the whole nation. In the meantime, foreign nationals and visitors may keep up with accurate disaster news through the NHK World Radio/TV app. Familiarizing oneself with Twitter or Facebook pages tied to your local city and its international association and downloading the Disaster Preparedness Tokyo app for both Android and iOS (covering pre-disaster and post-disaster measures) may help to prepare you mentally. Maintaining close contact with friends and peers is also key to survival.

If you have to flee your home, you will usually lodge at temporary evacuation areas (hinanjo) which are usually set up in gymnasiums of public schools. Long stays in such temporary living quarters could easily stress out the already traumatized evacuees. To counter such challenges, architect Shigeru Ban’s team developed a partition with paper-made poles and hanging fabric to secure private space for each evacuee. People who cannot return to their homes due to complete destruction or imminent danger, would eventually move to temporary shelters or subsidized apartments provided by the local government.