Apr 26, 2017

How to prepare for a North Korea ballistic missile attack on Japan in 10 minutes

How to prepare for a North Korea ballistic missile attack on Japan in 10 minutes photo

Post-March 2011 residents of Japan have become used to a life of preemptive bleeps, emergency apps, and speaker systems issuing warnings about the imminency of an earthquake and possible tsunami. Quite often, after a nervous few seconds, very little materialises. If it does, it’s, what, about 30 seconds later?  By comparison then, 10 minutes might appear a chasm of time in which to prepare for an impending emergency.   According to a Q&A document released by Japan’s Cabinet Secretariat Civil Protection, 10 minutes is the time it would take for a ballistic missile launched from North Korea (where else?) to reach mainland Japan.  (Ballistic missile in Japanese: 弾道ミサイル / dandō misairu)

10 minutes then. What’s to be done? Smoke a cigarette and reflect on a life well lived? Make for the bedroom (is 10 minutes enough?). Call the folks back home? Run for the hills? Well, none of the above, according to the government, who, for the first time, have issued a set of ‘directives’ in the event of a ballistic missile attack on Japan, in a pamphlet issued by the Cabinet Secretariat entitled; Protecting Ourselves against Armed Attacks and Terrorism. Sounds like fun read!  

Ballistic missile attacks are filed along with guerrillas / special forces, landing invasion, aerial intrusion, and chemical / biological agents or nuclear substances, under the section, ‘Points to be kept in mind when evacuating etc. in accordance with the type of armed attacks ….. ‘. 

The nature of the information has already been lambasted by the locals for its ballistic missile for dummies type of simplicity. Still, the passage starts out seriously enough … 

“It is extremely difficult to be able to pinpoint missile landing areas before their launch.”

"It is difficult to specify the kind of warheads (conventional warheads or NBC (nuclear, biological, and chemical) warheads) before they land. Depending on the kind of the warhead, the damage inflicted will vary greatly.”

… before falling back onto the blatantly obvious … 

“Evacuate indoors during the initial phase of the attack and then evacuate appropriately following instructions given by administrative agencies. In case of evacuating indoors, evacuate to a robust building or underground shopping arcade nearby.”

As is always the case with these things, the Japanese version goes into far more detail in a set of directives that were issued on April 21. The message is essentially the same though …. 

Look out for alerts issued via TV / radio broadcasts, the J-Alert system, e-mail alerts, and sirens warnings from disaster prevention organizations.

The information does offer an example of the kind of warning that might be issued. Which, yea, would be useful to know (if we can hear it over the din of loudspeaker wielding politicians, unwanted-TV collectors, and hot potatoes salespersons). It reads thus … 


Tadachini hinan. Tadachini hinan. Okunai ni hinan shi te kudasai. 

misairu no ichibu ga rakka suru kanō sei ga ari masu.

Evacuate/ take shelter immediately. Evacuate / take shelter immediately. Take refuge indoors. Part of a missile may potentially make impact.  

Further instructions … 

- When outdoors: Take shelter in sturdy buildings, shopping malls e.t.c.

- When there are no buildings around: Crouch for shelter / get your head towards the ground

- When indoors: Move away from windows or to rooms without windows

In the event that the missile impact is close by … 

- When outdoors: Cover mouth and nose with handkerchief, move away from the impact zone to ‘airtight’ buildings, or move upwind of the blast.

- When indoors: Turn off ventilation systems, close windows, make space as airtight as possible.

On April 26, via the Cabinet Secretariat Civil Protection Portal Site, the conclusions of a March ‘ballistic missile simulation’ conducted with authorities in Akita Prefecture were released (in Japanese). The details of the conclusions bear little reason for reprinting here (they are all covered by the points listed above). Interestingly though, the drill was based on a missile landing at sea rather than on land, which it would seem far more pertinent to prepare for. One line that did jump out from the page was the following, used to set the scene .. 

'Country X launches a ballistic missile, it lands in Japanese territorial waters off the coast of Akita.'

I think by Country X we all know to which direction the finger is being pointed. 

So authorities in Japan have gotten a bit of flack for the ‘Well, duh!!’ nature of their North Korea fires a ballistic missile how to. But they couldn’t win either way. Had they said nothing, and the psychotic chubster across the water did get bored enough to ‘press the button’, then there would have been outrage from a braying, and understandably scared, public that they had no idea what to do. Authorities here have to do something to at least feign readiness, caught as they are in the middle of a posture battle where North Korea’s bonkers thanatocracy is being poked with the proverbial stick by an American President harbouring all the diplomacy skills of, well, a missile.  

However, the smattering of this writer’s cynicism towards this comes from a different source; that of having been all but neglected during ‘earthquake’ readiness drills at previous places of employment here in Japan. OK, so maybe I was expected to have smarts enough to get the drill, so to speak, but the more serious point here might be the way information is conveyed. Yes, authorities have put together the documents (in English even) but how many expats in Japan are regular visitors to the Cabinet Secretariat Civil Protection Portal Site?  

About the J-Alert system

J-Alert is a nationwide warning system triggered into action at times of ballistic missile threat, tsunami, large earthquakes, and other emergency situations when there is little time to act. J-Alert warnings could be issued from government ministries, meteorological agencies, and fire departments, and sent to local authorities before being transmitted to the public via loudspeaker alerts.

The system is ‘tuned in’ to some 25 emergency situations, 11 of which will trigger an automatic public broadcast. Other situations will initially be relayed to municipal authorities who will decide on what action to take from there.

The 11 situations are as follows 

  • Ballistic missile announcement
  • Aerial attack
  • Guerilla / Special forces attack
  • Large-scale terror attack
  • Other issues of national security
  • Early warnings for earthquakes
  • Tsunami warnings
  • Volcanic eruptions (near residential areas)
  • Eruption bulletins
  • Certain weather warnings

All of this comes on the back of heightened tensions between North Korea, Japan, and the West which has seen news reports of bomb shelter sales soaring on these shores, and announcements from Prime Minister Abe that North Korea may be able to arm its missiles with sarin.  

Are you concerned about a missile attack on Japan from North Korea?  Do you feel like you have appropriate access to safety procedures issued by authorities in Japan?  Let us know in the comments.


Q&A relating to required action in the case of a ballistic missile attack (Japanese: 弾道ミサイル落下時の行動に関するQ&A)

Protecting Ourselves against Armed Attacks and Terrorism

About citizen evacuation on the case of ballistic missile attack (hypothesis) (Japanese: 弾道ミサイルを想定した住民避難訓練の実施について)

J-Alert (Jアラート)


(stephan) Flickr License



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