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Japanese Words for Natural Disasters

Volcanic EruptionFunka噴火

What Natural Disasters Happen In Japan?

Japanese Words for Natural Disasters : Japan is located on a major fault line, and it’s also part of the Ring of Fire. So, as you might expect, it gets a lot of natural disasters.

Earthquakes are probably the most common thing you’ll have to deal with. Japan gets a lot of earthquakes, but don’t worry. You won’t feel most of them. You can’t feel anything under about 2.5 on the Richter Scale, and even 3.0 feels like a big truck driving past your house. It would be similar to living in another place with lots of earthquakes, like California. 

Also, Japan has pretty strict building regulations to help their buildings survive earthquakes. That’s why they don’t have lots of super tall skyscrapers. 

As you might imagine, tsunamis can happen in Japan as well. I mean, come on. The word “tsunami” is Japanese (it means “harbor wave,” if you wondered). These are really only a concern if there are large earthquakes on the coast. But seeing how Japan is pretty much all coast, all large earthquakes have that risk. 

You might have heard the word “typhoon” to describe a hurricane in the Pacific Ocean. In Japan they’re called “taifu” and yes, they happen. I had a few hit when I lived in Japan.

Obviously, volcanic eruptions won’t happen on the daily in Japan, but there are active volcanoes on the islands, especially further south (looking at you, Kyushu). Also, thank heavens for kanji. “Funka” is way easier to say than “volcanic eruption.” 


“tsuyu” (梅雨)

Blizzards, thunderstorms, and hailstorms happen everywhere, even in Japan. I know, these aren’t natural disasters, perse, but they’re still good words to know. Like a lot of Asia, in Japan you get what’s called a “tsuyu” (梅雨) or a “rainy season.” This is usually between June and mid-July, and it’s exactly what it sounds like. Lots of storms. 

There’s actually a few other words for storm in Japan that you might hear, including “arashi” (嵐: tempest), “boufuu” (暴風: windstorm), and “amearare” (雨あられ: rain and hail). You might have heard the first one from a certain famous boyband. Just like English, there are a lot of different words to describe distinct weather phenomena. 

Floods can happen as well (it’s on the coast. I don’t know what you expected). Just a couple years ago there were actually major flooding problems around the Chugoku region. Flooding can cause other problems like mudslides, called “dosha saigai” (土砂災害: lit. “earth sand disaster”). 

As far as tornadoes go, I don’t think I’ve heard anyone talk about tornadoes in Japan. Even this word for “tornado” can also refer to a waterspout. However, I included it because I think it has an interesting cultural point.

The direct translation of “tatsumaki” means “dragon roll,” and was probably used more to refer to the water kind. In Japanese mythology, dragons are associated with storms and the sea. There’s even stories where dragons get mad and make huge storms. I just think that’s a really interesting tidbit, even if you never use the word. 


There’s a lot of potential for natural disasters in Japan. But you should also remember that the Japanese have been dealing with natural disasters for literally thousands of years. Modern technology is pretty good at either predicting disasters or coping with them effectively. While I lived in Japan, I did see quite a few of these, but I never felt unsafe. Besides, every country has to deal with natural disasters. Japan does a pretty good job with them.

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