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How to Make a Survival Kit for Emergencies in Japan

Prepare your survival kit for emergencies in Japan with these essential items recommended by the government of Japan and more.

By 6 min read

On January 1, 2024, the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture experienced a magnitude seven earthquake that destroyed homes and caused over 50,000 people to be evacuated. Beyond the evident devastation and its aftermath, this earthquake is an unfortunate yet compelling reminder to prepare a survival kit for emergencies in Japan.

About 1,500 earthquakes occur annually in the country. Many go unnoticed, but significant shakes are inevitable. Even small earthquakes are terrifying and doubly nerve-wracking when accompanied by the risk of a tsunami. Moreover, landslides, floods and typhoons regularly strike communities throughout Japan. Such events can happen quickly and leave little time for people to react.

Ultimately, knowing what to do in an earthquake (even a small one) can make a huge difference. Having a basic emergency kit or 防災グッズ (bosai guzzu) is recommended for individuals and families living in Japan. They provide the minimum necessary tools and supplies to keep you and your household safe during an emergency in Japan.

The Government Recommended Kit

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Consider the essentials.

The Japanese government wholeheartedly encourages citizens to prepare emergency survival kits. The official line is that just one item, a simple flashlight or bottle of water, can be life or death in an emergency. Moreover, Japan’s geography is varied. As such, local governments suggest different kinds of survival kits. For residents in Tokyo, these are the basic recommended items for your survival pack:

  • Flashlight
  • Portable radio
  • Helmet
  • Protective hood
  • Work gloves
  • Blanket
  • Batteries
  • Lighter
  • Candles
  • Water (remember to replace every few months)
  • Food (instant noodles, canned food, protein bars, etc.)
  • Can opener
  • Knife
  • Extra Clothing
  • Baby bottle
  • Cash
  • First-aid kit
  • Your bankbook
  • Your hanko (personal seal)

Also, consider things like prescription medicine. The government also suggests preparing smaller individual survival kits if you have children. This not only means you can pack more items but also provides an opportunity to discuss with your kids the importance of being prepared in the event of a disaster and what to do should one occur.

Buying a Survival Kit in Japan

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Keep your emergency survival bag somewhere easily accessible.

Putting together one’s own survival bag can be overwhelming and time-consuming. Alternatively, pre-made survival bags are available in Japan. However, remember that premade bags might not have everything you need.

Premade survival kits in Japan

Premade disaster survival kits can be found at most department stores, including Aeon, Don Quijote and Muji. Alternatively, premade kits are available online, such as:

Aeon Style and Yahoo.co.jp also have pre-made disaster kits to order, though these websites are entirely Japanese and tricky to navigate for someone used to online shopping in the West. Follow the above links and enter “防災グッズ” to see their range.

Build Your Own Survival Kit in Japan

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Personalize and build your own survival kit in Japan.

Besides the recommended government items, extras can be added to your survival kit. These additions can increase your comfort and resilience during an emergency, but remember: a survival kit should be portable.

In some cases, especially those involving a tsunami, a bulky kit that can’t easily be moved can hinder more than it helps. Your government embassy also usually provides recommendations for survival kits in Japan. For example, the US Embassy in Japan recommends these essential supplies (enough for three to five days):

  • Water: Four liters/one gallon per person daily; change every three to five months.
  • Food: Canned or pre-cooked, requiring no heat or water; consider special dietary needs, infants, the elderly, and pets.
  • Flashlight: With spare batteries and bulbs.
  • Radio: Battery operated with spare batteries.
  • Large plastic bags: For various purposes like disposal, waste containment, water protection, etc.
  • Hand soap and/or disinfecting hand cleaner gel: Waterless.
  • Feminine hygiene supplies, infant supplies, toilet paper.
  • Essential medications and glasses: If you wear contacts, for example.
  • Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils, cooking foil and plastic wrap.
  • First Aid kit: With instructions.
  • Yen in small bills: ATMs may not work after a disaster; also include coins and phone cards for public phones.

Extra items you might want to consider include:

  • Warm clothing or an emergency blanket
  • Sunhat
  • Whistle
  • High visibility clothing
  • Hand-powered radio
  • Hand-powered flashlight
  • Matches or a lighter

FAQ

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An emergency evacuation site at an elementary school in Japan.

Here are some common questions you might have about survival kits in Japan.

What size should my survival kit be?

The size of your survival kit depends on the climate and the number of people it’s meant for. Typically, it includes a large backpack with water carried separately. Since it’s something you may need to grab quickly and carry easily, especially during evacuations to higher ground, keep that in mind.

How many days should my survival kit cover?

The Japanese government recommends stockpiling at least three days of basic supplies. However, considering the possibility of severe natural disasters isolating communities for up to a week, households in particularly isolated areas should consider stockpiling for longer.

Where should I store my survival kit?

It’s advisable to store your survival kit near your front door for easy access during quick evacuations. Avoid keeping it in your vehicle, as emergencies like typhoons or floods may make leaving your home challenging.

How else can I prepare for a natural disaster?

Downloading a disaster warning app, such as the NERV Disaster Prevention App, is recommended. This app warns you about earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanic eruptions, keeping you informed and ready to respond.

Consider securing heavy furniture, such as refrigerators and TV centers. Move heavy items to lower shelves to minimize the risk of falling during an earthquake and install flexible connections on gas appliances. Move beds and children’s play areas away from heavy objects that may pose a threat during earthquakes.

Finally, Knowledge is crucial in dealing with natural disasters. Understand the risks in your area (e.g., landslide exposure), know evacuation routes, and be aware of immediate actions during an earthquake. The Ikebukuro, Tachikawa and Honjo Life Safety Learning Centers also offer hands-on demos and lessons for children.

Utilize resources

Here is a quick list of online resources you can use to prepare for natural disasters is Japan.

Have you prepared a survival kit in Japan? What tips do you have? Let us know in the comments.

This article was written in collaboration with Aaron Baggett.

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