• JIJI, Kyodo


Transport minister Kazuyoshi Akaba said Wednesday that he will set up a panel to improve the dissemination of information to foreign visitors in times of disaster.

Akaba said during a House of Councilors budget committee meeting that the panel will be established this autumn.

The panel will consist chiefly of experts and officials from municipal governments and the transport and tourism industries, including railway, bus and airport operators, Japan Tourism Agency officials said.

The Japan National Tourism Organization posts disaster-related information for foreign visitors on Twitter, and transport service companies deliver such information online in various languages.

The panel will consider how to make the services more widely known.

When powerful Typhoon Hagibis hit last weekend, the JNTO provided weather and traffic information in English on its official Twitter account @JapanSafeTravel, quoting content from public broadcaster NHK and the Japan Railways Group.

The number of account followers jumped from about 7,000 on Friday morning to some 22,000 by Monday, agency officials said.

Akaba also apologized Wednesday at the committee meeting over the fact that it became difficult to access information on the ministry’s website regarding the state of rivers on Saturday and Sunday as Typhoon Hagibis made is way across Japan.

The site offers real-time information on the conditions and water levels of the rivers, including live video.

“We will expand communication lines and improve the system” to prevent the reoccurrence of such a situation, Akaba said.

The ministry said Thursday that more than 23,000 hectares of the main island of Honshu have been confirmed to be flooded, as Typhoon Hagibis caused rivers to overflow and collapsed more than 100 embankments.