Preparing Your Emergency Bag in Japan

Robin Lewis
Sep 20, 2017 · 4 min read

“Emergency bag”, “Go bag”, “72 hour bag” — While there are an array of exciting names for these, they all essentially mean the same thing: a bag full of items that will help you to survive for 72 hours or more…

Do you have an emergency bag at home? How about at the office?

“72 hours” is a crucial time period after any disaster, and is often said to be the most important time for survival.

It’s estimated that it may take 72 hours (3 days) or more for help from the outside to arrive after a major disaster. In Japan, the government encourages being self-sufficient for 7 days or more if possible.

One key point — your emergency bag (非常持ち出し袋/ hijyo mochidashi bukuro) is different from your emergency stockpile (備蓄品 / bichiku hin).

Your stockpile is what you keep at home (see “Preparing Your Home For Disasters: Emergency Stockpiling”), whilst your emergency bag is what you prepare to take outside with you.

Emergency Bag List (非常持ち出し袋/ hijyo mochidashi bukuro)

While everyone’s needs will be different, below is a great reference list of items to include in your emergency bag:

Emergency Bag List [Link] — made by NGO Peace Boat, which runs English-language disaster preparedness workshops in Japan.

The critical items are marked “Things to take when evacuating” in the left-hand column.

Important Points

When preparing your emergency bag:

Use a rucksack or backpack, as opposed to a single-strap or duffel bag. This is so that you can use BOTH HANDS when evacuating. Remember that there may be glass, falling debris, cracked roads, etc., and so you want to make sure your hands are free to minimize these risks and move around safely.

Store it somewhere accessible — perhaps your genkan(entrance). Make sure you keep it somewhere where it cannot be blocked (e.g. near furniture that may fall over). I keep mine right by the front door, away from all furniture and obstacles.

Practice makes perfect. This is a crucial point — preparing the bag is only half of the battle. Make sure you know how to use your gear by actually opening it and using it at least once, ideally with your household/partner/flat mates. You can even make it a fun activity for the whole family or a team building exercise.

Check expiration dates and renew accordingly. Do a regular check and review of your emergency supplies — consume any products that may be approaching expiration, and replace.

– Don’t forget some of these important items — Paper copies of your driving license, alien registration card, insurance, bank book, etc., your hanko / inkan (stamp), paper copy of important phone numbers, map of your local area, cash (notes and small change for pay phones, etc.)

Remember to consider everyone’s needs — Do you have enough nappies and milk formula for the baby? How about sanitary items? How about your glasses, medication, or inhaler?


Emergency Bag: What About Your Workplace?

Ideally, you will also have an emergency bag at your workplace.

After the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011, many commuters in Tokyo struggled to get home and were even stranded overnight.

Think of how you would get home in the event of a major earthquake. Do you have a pair of walking shoes at the office, in case you need to make your way home on foot? Do you have essential supplies in your office, in case you need to evacuate or stay there overnight?

Getting even a small emergency bag together at the office can make a massive difference (use the reference list above).


Want more practical advice? See “6 things NOT to do after an earthquake in Japan” or “Preparing Your Home For Disasters: Emergency Stockpiling”. I work as a disaster preparedness consultant in Tokyo – feel free to get in touch with any questions!

Robin Lewis

Written by

Consultant, World Bank | Co-Founder, Social Innovation Japan | Social Impact, Disasters, Climate, Humanitarian Aid, Storytelling Japan | Travel 70+ Countries

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