Municipalities not issuing non-Japanese disaster guides

by Kazuaki Nagata

Staff Writer

Many municipalities across the country don’t offer disaster prevention guidebooks or maps in foreign languages and have no plans to do so, according to a recent survey.

Okayama-based Learn-S Co., a maker of school textbooks and informational brochures for foreigners put out by local governments, surveyed 690 municipalities across the country from May to June on their services for foreigners, focusing on disaster prevention.

The subsidiary of Benesse Holdings Inc. released its report earlier this week, showing 48 percent of the municipalities don’t provide disaster prevention guidebooks for foreigners and have no plans to make one. Similarly, 57 percent said they don’t provide disaster prevention maps.

“Basically, foreigners are invisible to officials in charge of disaster prevention at many municipalities,” Shigehiro Ikegami, who teaches multicultural symbiosis theory at Shizuoka University of Art and Culture, commented in the report.

Greater effort must be put into providing information to foreigners because they can better help their communities in emergencies if they are better informed, said Ikegami.

“Municipal officials need to see foreigners as community members who will be there to help when a disaster happens and when the communities try to rebuild from such an event,” he said.

The survey also revealed that most municipalities don’t provide emergency email services or hand out cards with information about disaster prevention. Municipalities that do provide some services said the most common request from foreigners was for evacuation maps.

In addition, the survey checked whether the municipalities provide other services to help foreign nationals in their communities get information, such as guidebooks for living in Japan and a foreign-language version of their websites.

Nearly 46 percent said they have guidebooks and 57 percent have translated websites.

Japan has about 1,700 municipalities, of which 1,021 were contacted. Answers were received from 690.