Japanese Words Made for Earthquakes and Other Disasters
By Matthew Coslett
On July 28, 2018
地震 だ (It’s an earthquake). 地震だ . My phone screamed at me as the bed rose and shook as if possessed by the demonic force from The Exorcist.
地震だ? No kidding! I thought as I was thrown back and forth and the sound of breaking glass filled the room.
After I’d calmed down enough to talk to my neighbors, I suddenly found a lot of new words being used. One I had never come across was 脱出 ルート (escape) and 避難路 (escape route).
Other words that came up a lot were the various ranks of the Richter Scale as people tried to work out how big the quake that had just hit us was. In Japan, earthquakes are categorized into seven levels known as 震度 . Each level also has two subdivisions marked 弱(lesser) and 強 (greater). So a 震度6弱 is strong enough that most people will find it difficult to stand; whereas a 震度6強 is strong enough that people will likely have to 這う (crawl) from the room.
Of course, the strength of the earthquake depends on the proximity of it to you and your place. The most dangerous place to be is the 震源地 (epicenter). After the initial hit, there are the 震動 (tremors) that affect the surrounding area and these are later followed by 余震 (aftershocks).
For people in the Kansai region, the earthquake was the most terrifying event of the year. Unfortunately, recently each prefecture has had something to deal with whether it was the 洪水 (floods) in western Japan, 火事 (fires), the 猛暑 (heat wave) that Japan is currently sweltering under or even the 噴火 (volcanic eruption) and resulting 雪崩 (avalanche) at Mt. Kusatsu-Shirane.
One of the golden rules for surviving the aftermath of an unexpected natural disaster is to be prepared.
These unfortunate events have lead to Japanese learners being forced to absorb new words like 被害 (harm), 避難 する (to take refuge) and even 死亡 (fatalities).
Considering all of this, one of the things that the shaking up of both my room and my life brought home to me was that my preparations for the earthquake or any other emergency event were utterly inadequate. Many of my neighbors were clutching 対策 or 防災 グッズ (emergency goods prepared in case of an earthquake) — whereas I had brought nothing except my wallet and mobile phone!
One of the golden rules for surviving the aftermath of an unexpected natural disaster is to be prepared. The 非常持ち出し品 (emergency goods) that you have in your pack should include things like 水 (water), 乾燥対策グッズ (dehydrated foodstuffs) and, of course, a 救急 (first-aid kit). It can also be useful 備蓄品を備える (to stockpile dried goods) just in case.
Hopefully, everyone is recovering from the recent disasters and emergencies. For all our readers: don’t forget to prepare your 対策グッズ, pack that 救急セット and for the people caught up in the Kansai quakes don’t forget to reset your gas if it has been unpredictable since the quake. While we should be aware of being prepared for the worst to happen at all times, fingers crossed that these words for earthquakes and natural disasters are not words that we will need again for a long time.
- How to reset your gas after a magnitude 5 earthquake with video:
- For earthquake preparedness:
- How to recognize what level earthquake you have: