national

Typhoon highlights need for multilingual disaster alerts in Japan

42 Comments

The requested article has expired, and is no longer available. Any related articles, and user comments are shown below.

© KYODO

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments
Login to comment

Bwahahaha! I got a three paragraph alert on my phone this afternoon. It was to warn of a landslide and local flooding. The only thing in a foreign language was the heading - Emergency Alert.

The saddest thing is, it would take them less than five minutes to translate it into five languages on Google. However, the alert I received was in Jpg format and could not be copy/lasted. This means, I died in a landslide today. Thank you Japan.

14 ( +20 / -6 )

A street is flooded by heavy rain in Chiba

Yikes! If only these cars were like the one Roger Moore was driving in Live and Let Die...

The best drainage systems can't cope with this much water at one time.

2 ( +6 / -4 )

My Hyogo emergency alert app send notifications to my smart phone in English but can also sent Chinese, Korean or Japanese too. It also alerts about fires and major traffic accidents.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

"But the center said it could not fully respond to the rapidly changing situation."

Hogwash. Only in Japan could you call DECADES of being told this is "rapid". I've asked the local City Hall countless times to participate in emergency drills held in local areas as a "foreigner who cannot communicate in Japanese" (I can, but the point is to simulate a person who cannot, such as a tourist or new arrival with little or no language skills), and was told no, that it would "confuse people", etc.

I have no problem with the Japanese only, but the government, and local governments, need to realise there are people who do, especially when the national government is welcoming foreign visitors in bigger and bigger droves each year (and in some cases workers, to stay), and since this is a disaster prone nation.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

My fellow foreigners will complain about everything. When the information is translated in easy Japanese for us, those of us good at Japanese get angry that NHK is looking down on our Japanese ability. When it is not translated, those of us who lack Japanese skills complain. It is high time we foreigners understand that we are in Japan; a foreign country and so the Japanese have no obligation to pander to our whims. Let's appreciate the little they do in terms of language support whilst also making frantic efforts to be good at Japanese. After all, when a Japanese visits another country, they do not expect, rightly so, that things would be translated into Japanese for them. They accept that they are in a foreign land and just play by the rules. When you go to Rome do what the Romans do. Many Japanese have died in this disaster. Are we saying they do not understand Japanese? When you see an alert, for your own safety examine your environment. If you feel unsafe,rush to the nearest evacuation center. You don't necessarily need to understand every word to know that the alert message is referring to something that needs to be taken serious.

-8 ( +11 / -19 )

@Frankus23 - When it is not translated, those of us who lack Japanese skills complain. It is high time we foreigners understand that we are in Japan; a foreign country and so the Japanese have no obligation to pander to our whims. 

What about the millions of tourists who come to Japan every year? Are you suggesting they should also be fluent in both spoken and written Japanese before they come? Your statement is as naive as it is absurd!

12 ( +17 / -5 )

I volunteer with a group in Kumamoto which provides local information in English via Facebook. The increase in the number of readers during the quakes was immense. I'd suggest that long-term, bilingual residents do the same.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

The Safety tips app*, which provides disaster info to international visitors, was launched in October 2014. The app has been greatly improved based on lessons from recent large-scale earthquakes, including the 2016 Kumamoto Earthquake, so that international visitors can travel around Japan more safely.

Can be set to many languages

https://www.mlit.go.jp/kankocho/en/page08_000096.html

I have set this one up on my iPhone

There is also the JMA online which I always use.

8 Free Apps That Could Save Your Life in Japan

https://medium.com/@robintlewis/8-free-apps-that-could-save-your-life-in-japan-8a8b6b61b955

5 ( +5 / -0 )

@Frankus23 i get what you were trying to say, but it didn,t work ( nice try though ). as a "fellow foreigner" i,ll say this: help Japan move forward, not backward.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Why is Japan always the last country to come to terms with the obvious?

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Typical, we get the translated version well after the event..too late...

2 ( +3 / -1 )

The technology for these alert apps has only become available over the past ten years. Smart phones have only be been around for about ten years and it takes time and manpower to develop free apps.

They are now available unlike even in many European countries they don't have them but they do have major disasters like what is happening at this moment in Span, France and Italy.

There are many typhoon tracking sites and easy to find using Google.

Foreign visitors/tourists can also checkout the websites of their embassies.

There are many ways to get info on pending disasters.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Abigail 

Typical, we get the translated version well after the event..too late...

So put an app on your phone like I have linked to and get notifications when they are needed. You need to make an an effort and take responsibility.

Besides smartphone apps NHK World is broadcasting in English and online when there's a disaster.

Within five minutes of the Tohoku earthquake NHK had copters airborne from Miyagi and broadcasting life about the coming tsunami and alerting people to move quickly. Those broadcasts were also in English.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The first time I heard this being said was after the Hanshin Earthquake back in 1995, so considering it's Japan, nearly 25 years later folks are finally getting around to doing something about it, seems about right!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Frankus: "My fellow foreigners will complain about everything. When the information is translated in easy Japanese for us, those of us good at Japanese get angry that NHK is looking down on our Japanese ability.

I like the "those of us GOOD at Japanese", 'good' being the functional word there to show you defeating your own argument. Yes, those who are GOOD at a language do not like being dummied down to, or in anything besides languages either.

"When in Rome, do as the Romans do"

So, tourists who are here on a visit should have already become fluent in the language first? Whereas the Japanese government, seeking foreign tourists and residents to help the ageing society, should expect everyone to know Japanese before they come?

"...or there must be tons of foreigners who take free english "environment" for granted and they won't be awared that THEY OWE US."

Sorry, bro, but you owe everyone here, at the very least, an apology on all fours, your head touching the ground.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

I have always been impressed how quickly TV info was available for major disasters like Kobe and Tohoku but on both occasions I was living outside of those areas.

When the Tohoku happen there was power outages across a vast area of the country and lost of nearly all forms of communications like TV and smartphones. There is a need to keep some of the old technologies alive like radio, CB radio, SW radio, fax. So many people in the Tohoku disaster had no idea of what had happened or the extend of it all. Must have seemed like the end of the world.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Serrano:

Car boats actually existed. US President LBJ back in the 60s had one. With rising sea levels, we should bring back.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A lot of foreign visitors to Japan - me included - do not carry cell phones. So every comment in this thread that refers to 'apps' means squat.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

It's unfortunate that Japanese society is of a 'us' and 'them' mindset but it is. A life threatening event requires massive communication to all 'people' who are visitors, residents, citizens, etc. The FACT that everyone will not be fully capable of understanding 'life saving' instructions in Japanese does not make them foreign or invisible, it simply puts them in harms way.

English, just start there. The Vietnamese lady in the article asked for English. See, people are part of the solution not jut a problem.

In my home city (San Francisco) almost everything related to government and safety is in English, Spanish and Cantonese/ Mandarin (Chinese). We do this for our fellow San Franciscan's, visitors, residents, humans...

Japan is a wonderful country but it still needs a bit evolutionary mindset changes to adjust to the country it is today.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Having survived the 1995 quake, I soon realized that taking care of foreigners was the last of anyone’s worry.

Not much has changed...

4 ( +4 / -0 )

The government has a duty of care for tourists, students, and guest workers. You can't just pat yourself on the back for the tourist numbers and count the money.

Btw, there are flood warnings this weekend for the UK that say some areas might get 70mm of rain. 120mm on high ground. During Hagibis, Hakone here in Japan got 920mm in one day. I bet vast swathes for Japan got 100mm again today. It's easy to look for someone to blame when flood defenses fail and/or people get flooded, but we are really up against nature in Japan.

https://www.independent.co.uk/weather/snow-heavy-flooding-danger-to-life-this-weekend-weather-latest-a9170501.html

1 ( +1 / -0 )

In addition to having disaster apps on your phone there are also good translating ones. There's an iPhone app call Translate which you aim your phone at a Japanese sign and it will translate it into your language. Another called Translator which is from Microsoft you can input text and translate and even have a two conversation using the app. Both work well if not perfect.

TrevorPeace

A lot of foreign visitors to Japan - me included - do not carry cell phones. So every comment in this thread that refers to 'apps' means squat.

So carry your phone and use the wifi connections. More tourists these days have phones with them than not. You can pick one up at the airport and return it when you leave. The same apps work on tablets/iPads.

If you really want to carry nothing then its very difficult to get info to someone like you. I suggest then while ou are here and a major disaster happens just follow the local people.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

TrevorPeace

A lot of foreign visitors to Japan - me included - do not carry cell phones. So every comment in this thread that refers to 'apps' means squat.

You could prepare a set of disaster communication cards with a question in Japanese and English for your use and then several answers also in Japanese and English so you can ask someone using the cards.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Good Lord! It isn't exactly rocket science.

Just prepare a few messages, get them checked by a native speaker who is capable of writing a grammatically correct sentence and send them out as appropriate.

"Mild Typhoon. Nothing to worry about."

"Strong typhoon approaching. Stock up on food, bottled water, don't go outside."

Et cetera.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

This is about how we can do things better. It’s constructive criticism not criticizing the Japanese. If ill perceived criticisms can save lives then it’s well worth it.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

This is an inappropriate problem for the 21st century.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

TrevorPeace: "A lot of foreign visitors to Japan - me included - do not carry cell phones. So every comment in this thread that refers to 'apps' means squat."

Dude, you're among a dying breed. I give you props for not carrying around a cell phone, as impractical as that is (for everything from looking at a map to making calls, or in this case getting emergency warnings), but that does not mean they should not send out messages via cell phone simply because some single digit percentile doesn't have one. THat's be like saying they shouldn't send alerts on TV because foreign visitors don't carry a television around.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I live in Okazaki, Aichi. There are many foreigners here, mainly Brazilians, and the alerts come to my email in. . . Portuguese!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

ust prepare a few messages, get them checked by a native speaker who is capable of writing a grammatically correct sentence and send them out as appropriate.

"Mild Typhoon. Nothing to worry about."

"Strong typhoon approaching. Stock up on food, bottled water, don't go outside."

How ignorant can some people be! The recent typhoon that went through Japan WAS mild!

A typhoon is a typhoon, it wasn't so much the typhoon that caused the damage, but the associated rain with it.

You will get people KILLED by suggesting that any typhoon is "mild" and "nothing to worry about!"

2 ( +2 / -0 )

A typhoon is never mild that's why it's called a typhoon instead of a severe tropical storm or tropical storm. Better to over prepare than unprepared.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I still feel localised battery powered sirens/speakers, diesel backup are the way to go.

They have been use for airstrike alerts during wartime why can't a global standard be formed on how the alerts will sound.

Cell communications can get knocked out anytime.

Tall bright colored beacon lighting also should be implemented for evacuation sites to make itself known during emergencies.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Sarge:

Yikes! If only these cars were like the one Roger Moore was driving in Live and Let Die...

He drove a bus and a Chevy Impala in live and Let Die - I'm not sure either of those would have fared any better. Now the Lotus Esprit from The Spy Who Loved Me, however - that's a different kettle of fish.

But you're right about the drainage. It was coming down in sheets all day today - the news isn't going to be good tomorrow.

I only hope more people reached the magic 1-metre-underwater the Abe Government has decided is the threshold for assistance. I'd ber happy to see my tax money go somewhere other than Olympic waste for a change.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Why would anyone try to drive through a street inundated like that?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

There are train stations and even train conductors, making announcements in English, and Im seeing allot more foreigners in Japan now, so efforts are being made

Japan needs to get comfortable with living next to foreigners, like people in HK or SG do. Doesnt mean throw away the culture etc., but I would be ok with being the occasional nuisance gaijin, instead of an outcaste, in Japan. I think, (though I thought I would never say this), that Japan is making efforts to integrate foreigners, but much more has to be done. Once we start seeing TV shows communicating with foreigners in English, then we will know real efforts are progressing.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

With this sudden influx of foreigners both tourists and alike in this past decade alone, Japanese authorities are already overwhelmed by their own act. Yet PM Abe said the gov't will boost efforts to achieve its target of 40 million visitors to Japan by 2020 as it seeks economic growth through tourism. The number this year is already estimated to have surpassed 20 million and is expected to eclipse the 30 million mark for the full year, according to the gov't. Although we have lots to offer but very few to show mainly because of single digit percentage of population who can communicate in any given languages. Given English as the common language since the last century, the gov't did not exert much effort to teach English comprehensively at school unlike in other Asian countries.Those were the days that leaning any foreign languages was considered irrelevant and deemed unnecessary.. Now we are caught in a dilemma that even the local officials can not communicate in English. However, since the turning of the century, there were much efforts and changes implemented for the benefit of the foreigners. Notice how the street signs and signboards changed in buses and trains stations and even in airports in the past 10, 5 and at present. And if you're here for over 2 decades or more, the changes were without rebuke.

This country is trying its best to accommodate all its visitors both short and long term. There will never be a one shoe fits all in any situation. Put your ideas into use by volunteering in local NGO's and help other foreigners and your own. Your language plus your familiarity in this country will help instead of whining and bickering against each other. For those who are married and have seeds, someday you will be become the root in this country.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Okay so I can speak Japanese well enough, but reading the disaster alert messages that came to my phone during Hagibis? First, they're multimedia messages so you can't copy and paste them into Translate, noooo, gotta screenshot and then put them in. Then there's the issue with Translate not being perfect, misreading some place names, and just occasionally leaving out entire grammar points that change sentences. I also have the Japan Shelter app which gives me disaster alerts for wherever I want and automatically translates them but that makes the text lose all its formatting which makes it near impossible to read.

Foreigners living here could get by if they're tech savvy and know a decent amount of Japanese (that's not to say many are). But if you're a visitor who only knows how to stiltingly say 'arigato', none of this is useful. AND the NHK news channel had a translator with poor pronunciation and grammar skills when translating into English. There was only one translator who had a decent grasp of the English language.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It seems like some areas are doing good, like Hyogo Ken, as zichi mentioned. Maybe because of the 1995 quake there. Anyway, whew, Japan has been hit hard for the past several years. Let's all help one another and take care as much as we can. Hey, we're all in this together.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

So many good points being made here. Would that a task force were collecting them and putting them into practice.

For an average tourist who gets caught in a disaster, good luck. For non-Japanese who have lived here a long time, it's possible to have support systems, apps and all you need in place. A card listing iphone and android options for emergency apps, weather trackers and the like in multiple languages should be given to everyone stepping off a plane or ship.

For someone like me who has lived in Japan for short term intervals of several months at a time with long intervals in between, it's not that easy to be or stay up to speed.

That vulnerability increases for anyone who is not super tech savvy. Many of the SIM cards visitors can obtain won't permit the use of such apps and links. If they were required to provide such options by law, that would help somewhat.

However, if power is out and your charge is drained, it's not much help in trying to determine what to do. I would find it helpful and reassuring for hotels and short term rental properties to be required by law to provide an earthquake/emergency bag along with a map to the nearest evacuation center in each suite. Secure it with a damage deposit if need be, but make it available.

None of this would be that difficult to do. Though it might not save every life, it would save some.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Good opportunity for foreign software engineer to make an app for disasters especially with the Olympics next year.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Why would anyone try to drive through a street inundated like that?

Staged for the photo perhaps?

If any of those gasoline engine cars stop, and their engine rooms get flooded with water, they can kiss that car goodbye!

I lost a mini-van here in a typhoon because I went down a road that was flooded, but couldnt see the water prior to hitting it because of conditions, once I was in it, I drove through as fast as possible, but unfortunately the water got too deep and the engine stopped. It was a diesel engine, and once the water drained, the engine restarted eventually and I got home safe, but the van was shot.

Sometimes people do not knowingly do it, but in this picture it seems like that is not the case, as it's broad daylight.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

@Frankus23; Every country that I have been to offers international language (English) support. Even in Bali, and Hawaii, a Japanese can use their native language. Abe has made Japan a tourist bound country and open the doors to non-native Japanese workers. Other countries of interest for Japanese have adjusted for Japanese, so why can't Japan who has become a rich country through international business not able to offer English emergency assistants?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

during a big earthquake. I went to a public shelter. public agent said [you are not Japanese , can not stay here...] guarantee you that during disaster, it is jungle rule here , do not count on anybody.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites