Nagano Prefecture has won praise for providing foreign residents with disaster information related to powerful Typhoon Hagibis, which tore through the prefecture last month, in multiple languages and in simple Japanese.

Although it was a Sunday, staffers at the Nagano Prefectural Government’s Multicultural Counseling Center offered telephone consultation services to residents in 15 languages, including English, Chinese, Tagalog and Portuguese, on Oct. 13, the day after the 19th named storm of the year made landfall in central Japan.

More than 10 inquiries were made seeking information, including on the process for acquiring disaster victim certificates and ways to dispose of disaster waste, and the center helped the callers speak with prefectural government officials through interpreters.

On Oct. 14 and later, the Nagano government’s Twitter account for disaster management posted messages using only easy words written in hiragana, including one that read, “For foreigners who are not good at Japanese, we have made a phone (consultation service) in which you can speak in many foreign languages.”

These tweets were retweeted, or shared, over 40,000 times, with many commenting how thoughtful the initiative was and how they were moved by it. The outpouring of praise “was unexpected, and we are thankful,” a representative of the prefecture’s international division said.

The initiative came after the prefectural government conducted a seminar for its staff in August on avoiding the use of difficult words when communicating with foreign nationals. The prefecture also issued notices using simple Japanese before the typhoon struck the region, with the Multicultural Counseling Center calling on residents via its website to stay on alert for weather updates.

Nagano operated the 15-language consultation service and used simple Japanese for notifications about the service for the first time. The authority plans to include the successful initiatives in its multiculturalism promotion guidelines, which are slated to be revised by the end of March.

“It was the first time doing this, but we were able to have it spread online and also many people paid attention to it,” the international division official said.

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