Created for expats living in Japan

Earthquake App Options: 6 Smart Choices for your Smartphone

As even Japan’s reliable mobile phone networks will inevitably get jammed during natural disasters, the internet is your best bet for getting information and disseminating information about yourself. If you’re new to Japan or aren’t fluent in the language yet, or if your phone set was purchased outside of Japan, you either won’t be receiving early earthquake warning signals from the Japan Meteorological Agency, or won’t understand the emergency alert that is buzzing on your phone except to see that there is some natural disaster on the way.

And as the last thing you want to do in the midst of an earthquake is to start running out of the room while looking down at your smartphone in the hope of finding and downloading an earthquake app, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the English language options out there and choose one for your smartphone today. While some may want to choose a Japanese earthquake app, others may not--here are 6 possible choices to keep you savvy and safe.

Japanese Earthquake App Options

The idea for having English language apps came about after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami, which caused much confusion and chaos for foreigners who had difficulty acquiring up-to-date and accurate information about the ongoing disaster. Among other things, these Japanese earthquake apps will warn you of the magnitude and location of an oncoming earthquake while also providing you with communication flashcards that you can show to locals when inquiring about what is going on.

JTA Warning App

This English-language Japanese earthquake app, which was created by the Japan Tourism Agency targeting visitors to Japan, alerts you when there is an earthquake of a seismic intensity of 4 or more on the Japanese seismic intensity scale, as well as whether a tsunami is on its way. It also displays basic evacuation tips such as "evacuate from coastal or river areas immediately" for those who are not familiar with evacuation routines of the region, and a list of earthquakes that occurred recently for reference. There are also handy Japanese phrases to use when asking the locals for help or information, such as "Is this an earthquake?", and "Is it safe here?". These phrases are available in English, Chinese and Korean.

Download for iPhone and Android


LINE Messenger

While not technically an earthquake app, this was launched in the aftermath of the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake as a way for people to keep in touch with their friends and family as phone lines and systems were still down in many parts of Japan that were affected by the quake and tsunami. With free internet calls, it is a handy way to stay in touch both during an emergency and when phone lines are jammed. It is also a massively popular cultural phenomenon, complete with cute stamps and backgrounds that you can get for free (or buy, if you feel like customizing your experience).

Download for iPhone and Android


NERV Disaster Prevention

This disaster preparedness app with a theme based on the anime "Neon Genesis Evangelion" is gaining popularity in Japan. This app provides a wealth of information such as earthquake, tsunami, and rain warnings along with other related information. The goal of this app is to increase users understanding of information related to disasters. This app has many features such as being able to register where family members are and receive warnings based on their location as well as your own. The creator would like to warn users not to rely on the app so much that they stop thinking. The information this app provides is to help users make informed decisions about the actions they should take in the event of an emergency.


Yurekuru Call

Literally meaning "the coming quake", this popular Japanese earthquake app uses information from the Japanese Meteorological Agency’s Earthquake Early Warning system to inform you of an oncoming quake, as well as its magnitude and epicenter. This app is more reliable than the mandated warning on all Japanese mobile phones, as you can set your own threshold for alerts. The threshold for the mandated alerts are usually a lot higher. You can also configure the setting according to your location in Tokyo and choose to be informed about an early earthquake warning drill so that you can participate in it. While the app’s warning comes just a few seconds before the actual quake, it does give you a head start to if you need to dive for cover or get out of a potentially dangerous spot. It also provides maps with information such as the location and depth of the earthquake’s epicenter.

Download for iPhone and Android