Preparing for Earthquakes in Kashiwa

Earthquakes can be a frightening experience, especially for those who are not accustomed to dealing with them. It's human nature to fear things we do not understand. Fortunately, Japan is one of the leaders in earthquake research and we are learning more about them every day. I can't promise you that you will not experience an earthquake during your time in Kashiwa, but I hope that these resources empower you to prepare yourself for earthquakes and know what to do when one strikes.

What is an earthquake? The United States Geological Survey has a very detailed page all about what earthquakes are and why they happen. They also dispel some of the myths about earthquakes.

A USGS map of plate boundaries and earthquake occurrences in Japan

Why does Japan get so many earthquakes? Japan is located close to the plate boundaries of the Okhotsk Plate, Pacific Plate, Philippine Plate, and Eurasian Plate. Earthquakes typically occur at plate boundaries. To learn more about earthquakes in Japan, I recommend watching the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology's video. They do a great job of explaining what is going on at each of these plate boundaries, where earthquakes typically occur in Japan, historical earthquakes in Japan, and why tsunamis may follow earthquakes.

Tsunami?! Can a tsunami happen in Kashiwa? Kashiwa is too far from the ocean, so we don't have to worry about tsunamis. However, flooding is known to occur in parts of the city after heavy rain. If you want to check the flood risk in your area and know where your nearest flood shelter is, please stop by the information center and ask for a hazard map. If you happen to be near the coast and you feel an earthquake, do not wait for a tsunami warning. Get to higher ground as soon as possible. If there is a tsunami warning in your area, evacuate immediately. Tsunamis are known to occur on the coast of Chiba's Boso Peninsula.

A well-stocked earthquake kit in Japan

How can I prepare for an earthquake? The City created a great handbook that tells you what things you should put in an earthquake kit, planning with people in your household, and what you can do to keep yourself safe during and after an earthquake.  The Japan Times also has a good article about this.

One important thing that every earthquake kit will mention is knowing where your nearest evacuation center is and keeping a physical map handy. We distribute emergency maps here at the information center, so that's a great way to get started with your preparations. Currently, the maps are only available in Japanese, but we'll be more than happy to help you find your house and your shelter on the map. Generally shelters are located at elementary or middle schools so if you see one by your house, that is most likely where your nearest shelter is located. You'll want to check that map for where water distributions are located though.

Here are some phrases you can use during an emergency: 

Where is a shelter?

Hinanjo wa doko desu ka?「避難所はどこですか?」




Kaji da! 「火事だ」

Where can I get water?

Mizu wa doko de moraemasu ka? 「水はどこでもらえますか?」

I hear a lot about this "shindo scale" but what is it? The Shindo scale is the main scale for measuring earthquakes in Japan. The Richter or Mercalli scales used in other countries measures the power at the epicenter of the earthquake, but doesn't give you much detail about how the earthquake will feel to you in your location. If you are far away from the epicenter, the earthquake will feel much weaker to you. This is why the Shindo scale was created. It explains how someone will experience the earthquake at a given location. Check out the Japan Meteorological Agency's chart explaining each number on the Shindo scale.

How can I get safety information after an earthquake? WaNavi Japan, an NPO dedicated to helping foreign people with emergency preparedness, created an article with sources of earthquake information as well as a vocabulary list of words related to earthquakes and emergencies in general.

What's with the catfish? Why do I see catfish everywhere on earthquake-related things? According to ancient Japanese folklore, earthquakes are caused by Namazu, a giant catfish that lives beneath the ground. Normally, the god Kashima keeps Namazu under control. If he doesn't maintain control of Namazu, he will flap his tail and create an earthquake.

Modern Japanese people don't really believe this anymore, but catfish are still symbolically associated with earthquakes to this day.

This article is written by:

United States




Hey guys! I’m Sydney, your friendly neighborhood foreigner! I moved to Japan in 2014, but I came to Kashiwa in 2019. Despite my name, I’m American not Australian.

When I first arrived in Japan, I was so relieved to find articles written by other foreigners about how to make my way in my new country. Now that I’ve been here a while, I’d like to share what I’ve learned as well and pay it forward.