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How to make a survival kit for emergencies in Japan

By Talisker Scott Hunter

On January 1, 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

Consider the essentials. Image: iStock/ yukimco

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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And as many people spend up to a third of their adult life at work, it may be wise to store a duplicate emergency back pack in your office.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

If you are just staying in Japan, keep anything you want to escape with pre-packed in a bag near your bed: laptop, cash, phones, plus some energy bars. Include a foil hypothermia blanket (they fold to a tiny size), medical kit and a whistle. Remember to exclude OTC opiods from any medical kit you take to Japan.

For the Tokyo bag, I'd swap the blanket for a foil hypothermia blanket or poncho. It is light, won't get wet and takes up less space. You might also add enough foil sleeping bags for the family.

When Japan fully switches to retained pull tabs on cans, you won't need a tin opener.

For 'work gloves' look for cut-proof gloves. Your torch should be small, bright and long-lasting on one AA cell. Not a big one with 2 'D' cells in it. Get one with a metal body that can be used to smash glass in an emergency.

You can get Beanie hats with LED lights in them. These work really well. Hands-free light, where you need it. Maybe some Japanese emergency helmets have these.

Note that a Japanese portable radio has a different FM waveband to a Western one, so if you emigrated with one, post-quake would be a bad time to start using it.

Gas pipes break in quakes, so don't be too quick to light those candles.

Depending upon how much you can carry, check out survivalist suppliers. Hand warmers don't take up much space and will get you through the first night a bit warmer, until help is rolled out. Self-heating instant food and drink products are also available.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Wait. Unless I am missing some hidden purpose, why the baby bottle?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Everything in our kit comes from one of the 100 yen shops including the bag to hold it.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Hint: Go to Daiso and think, "If I were camping for a week, what would I need?" - buy it all, and a single bag to store it in. And keep that bag in an accessible place.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Need the baby bottle in case someone in the group start to panic and cry

-6 ( +0 / -6 )

Good advice. Need to check ours.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

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