Many parts of the country have experienced devastating earthquakes and tidal waves in the past. The worst earthquake in Japanese history hit the Kanto plain around Tokyo in the year 1923, when over 100,000 people died in the Great Kanto Earthquake.
In January 1995 a strong earthquake hit the city of Kobe and surroundings. The Southern Hyogo Earthquake (also called Great Hanshin Earthquake) killed 6,000 and injured 415,000 people. 100,000 houses were completely and 185,000 partially destroyed.
The Japanese "shindo" scale for measuring earthquakes is more commonly used in Japan than the Richter scale. Shindo refers to the intensity of an earthquake at a given location, i.e. what people actually feel at a given location, while the Richter scale measures the magnitude of an earthquake, i.e. the energy an earthquake releases at the epicenter.
The shindo scale ranges from shindo one, a slight earthquake felt only by people who are not moving, to shindo seven, a severe earthquake. Shindo two to four are still minor earthquakes that do not cause damage, while objects start to fall at shindo five, and heavier damage occurs at shindo six and seven.
Every household should keep a survival kit consisting of water and food for a few days, a flashlight, a radio and a first aid kit. Avoid placing heavy objects into places where they could easily fall during an earthquake and cause injury or block exits. Have a fire extinguisher. Familiarize yourself with the designated evacuation area in your neighborhood.
During and after an earthquake:
Falling objects, toppling furniture and panic present the greatest dangers during an earthquake. Try to protect yourself under a table or doorway. Do not run outside, and try to remain as calm as possible. If you are in the streets, try to find protection from glass and other objects that may fall from surrounding buildings.
After a strong earthquake, turn off ovens, stoves and the main gas valve. Then, listen to the radio or television for news. In coastal areas beware of possible tidal waves (tsunami). In mountainous areas beware of possible land slides triggered by the earthquake.