NHK releases an "easy" warning that consisted of hiragana alone, no kanji. (Image via Japan Today)

Typhoon Hagibis wakes Japan to provide multilingual warning

When Japan was swept away by typhoon no. 19, dubbed as Typhoon Hagibis, some foreigners had to evacuate. It is common sense for the people to immediately evacuate in the face of dangers. However, since Japanese authorities only provided warnings in the Japanese language, many foreigners are left confused.

On 27 October, the Japanese local authority released “evacuation advisory” through an emergency e-mail. Since it was released in a full Japanese language, many foreigners are shocked and afraid, not being able to understand.

Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK), tweeted the typhoon alert in simple hiragana, no kanji. It received mixed reactions. Some foreigners and even native Japanese people found it helpful, while some found it as hilariously outrageous. As some foreigners don’t possess the slightest Japanese knowledge, the warning did the least.

Take an example from a foreigner who visited Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Northeast Japan. Miyagi is among the areas hit the hardest by the Hagibis. The foreigners asked Sendai Disaster Multilingual Support Center, local tourism center, that offers advisory in other languages.

However, even it could not fully respond to the inquiries due to fast-changing situations. The center wished that the Japanese government would soon develop a system that will deliver the multilingual messages faster.

Other regions don’t have multilingual support center. Therefore, many foreigners in these areas are confused about where to get comprehensible information.

In Hyogo Prefecture, the area hit by the Great Hanshin Earthquake in 1995, started offering multilingual information and advisories, as many as 12 languages, starting May. In June, Kumamoto followed the stead by establishing a multilingual service. In September, Okayama was the one followed.

One thing for sure, thanks to Hagibis, Japan realized that it needs to spread multilingual warnings to reach all people from different nations and tongues. Not only will it reduce the death toll but also it will show that Japan pays delicate attention to all its people, both foreigners and natives.