As part of efforts to help foreign tourists during their stay in the country, the Japan Tourism Agency has produced an English-language smartphone app called "Safety Tips" which provides users with real-time earthquake and tsunami warnings.

The agency came up with the idea of creating the app after government surveys of foreigners traveling around the country at the time of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami found that many experienced hardships and confusion, said Rumiko Nishihira, an official at JTA's Receiving Foreign Tourists Division.

"Some people had never experienced earthquakes, so they couldn't tell if what they were experiencing was really an earthquake. And all (disaster-related) information was available in Japanese only so they didn't know what to do after the quake," said Nishihira.

The app, which was released in Oct. 24, is available on iOS and Android, and alerts users when an earthquake with an intensity of 4 or more on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 0 to 7 occurs, and whether or not a tsunami is imminent.

The app also displays basic evacuation tips, a list of earthquakes that have occurred recently and Japanese phrases to use when asking for help or information.

The phrases, which come with translations in English, Korean and Chinese, include such questions as "Is this an earthquake?" and "Is it safe here?"

The app must be manually downloaded by individual users, and, apart from the phrases, is currently available in English only.

Nishihira said JTA plans to promote the app at airports and tourist information centers around the country. The agency also hopes to eventually include information about other natural disasters such as typhoons, mudslides or volcanic activity through the app.