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Essential Japanese Words for Weather Warnings

Learning Japanese Life in Japan FAQ Japan Tips From Locals Japan 101

Understanding what is happening in an emergency is very important, but the Japanese terms for natural disasters and dangerous weather can be confusing. This easy guide is a handy cheat sheet to help you stay safe and be able to make smart decisions in the event of a severe weather warning in your area.

Basic Japanese Weather Warning Terms

Basic Japanese Weather Warning Terms

Even if you understand Japanese, announcements and news flashes during emergencies can be hard to read. Fortunately a member of the organization AFWJ created a useful breakdown of the main terms for levels of danger and dangerous weather conditions.

In order of severity, the danger levels are:

Advisory (注意報, chuiho): this means that there is a possibility of danger.
Warning (警報, keiho): there is a significant possibility of danger.
Emergency Warning (特別警報, tokubetsu keiho): there is a very high risk of danger, so you should prepare accordingly or leave the area.

Severe weather conditions in Japan to be aware of are:

Heavy rain (大雨, oame)
Heavy rain with landslides (大雨 土砂災害, oame, dosha saigai
Heavy rain with flooding (大雨 浸水害, oame, shinsuigai
Flooding (洪水, kozui)
Strong winds (暴風, bofu)
Strong winds and blizzards (暴風雪, bofu setsu)
Heavy snow (大雪, oyuki)
High waves (波浪, haro)
High tide (高潮, takashio)

In cases when you need to leave the area to ensure your safety, there are three levels of urgency:

Evacuation Preparation (避難準備, hinan junbi): this is an advance notice so those who can't move quickly (such as children, the elderly and those with mobility issues) can get to safety. If you are not sure where to go, ask the police or locals how to get to the nearest evacuation center (避難所, hinanjo).

Evacuation Advisory (避難勧告, hinan kankoku): if you are in a high-risk area, you should evacuate, and in the case of flooding move to higher ground or a higher floor.

Evacuation Order (避難指示, hinan shiji): this is an order to evacuate immediately, follow the instructions of those in charge of the evacuation process, either by going to the evacuation center or to higher ground.

In Japan there are many safety procedures in place to help people get to safety during emergencies, so do your best to stay calm and follow directions. Do not strike off on your own, especially if you are not familiar with the area, as you may put yourself in danger.

More Information and Useful Tips

The Japanese National Tourism Organization has created an app called Safety Tips, which provides earthquake, tsunami and other weather warnings in English, Korean and Chinese. The app also includes information about what steps to take during evacuations and hospitals with foreign-language assistance.

Other sites where you can get information about weather warnings are the homepage of the Japanese Meterological Agency and NHK's English-language news site.