Living in Japan

How to restore gas service after a big earthquake in Japan

This article is part of our series on “how to live in a Japanese apartment“. In this chapter, we explain how to turn on the gas flow to your apartment after a major earthquake.

Automatic gas shut off after a major quake

In Japan, your gas meter is equipped with a microcomputer meter that will shut off gas flow in the event of an earthquake bigger than Shindo (震度) 5 (seismic intensity 5) on the Japanese earthquake scale.

For reference, the quake that hit the northern Osaka region on June 18th registered a Lower 6, so automatic gas shut-off was activated.  Automatic gas shut-off is implemented by your gas company because a big temblor can damage gas pipes, which greatly increases the risk of fire.

It is important to know that gas flow will not automatically turn on, even after the earthquake stops. 

During and after an earthquake, the most important thing to do is to remain calm and to protect yourself. Once the quaking has stopped, follow the steps below to check for gas leaks and to turn on gas flow to your residence, if the gas was automatically cut off due to the intensity of the earthquake.

Also, in a major quake, your gas supplier may cut off supply to an entire neighborhood or region (so in this case, you will not be able to re-activate service just by re-starting the gas flow at the gas valve at your house or apartment).

1. Make sure your kitchen stove is turned off. Do not turn on any electrical appliances. Do not light any fires.

Turn off your kitchen stove, if you didn’t already do so when the quaking started.

A major earthquake can damage gas pipes leading to a gas leak.

To reduce the risk of fire, after the quaking has stopped, turn off all electrical appliances (such as irons and dryers), not just the appliances in your kitchen. Do not turn on your stove or light a fire (including a match or lighter to light a cigarette)

2. Check for a gas leak

  1. If you smell gas, open the windows to your residence, shut off the gas valves to any gas appliances (such as your stove), and close the gas tap on your gas meter (located in a metal box outside the door to your apartment).
    1. In an apartment building, the gas meter box is usually located in a metal box outside the front door to your apartment. Graphic: Tokyo Gas

    2. Shut off the gas supply to your kitchen stove by turning the knob to the horizontal position. Image: Tokyo Gas

    3. Turn off the gas valve on the meter by turning the handle to the horizontal position. Image: Tokyo Gas

  2. Evacuate the building.
  3. Call your local gas provider to report the leak (numbers for Osaka Gas and Tokyo Gas are below the graphic).

What to do if there is a gas leak in your residence. To shut off the gas on the meter Source: Tokyo Gas

Use the numbers below to report a gas leak.

Osaka Gas: List of Gas Leak Emergency Numbers (In English)

Tokyo Gas:  Gas Leak Emergency Number (In English): 0570-002299

3. After you’ve checked for a gas leak, turn on the gas flow from the gas meter

  1. Locate your gas meter. In most apartment buildings, your gas meter will be located outside the apartment door in a metal box. In some apartment buildings, the gas meters for different units will be in a centralized location (there will be a sticker on each meter indicating the apartment number) . In most single-family homes, the gas meter will be attached to an exterior wall.

    Where is your gas meter? These are the most common places for gas meters to be placed. Graphic: Tokyo Gas

  2. What does a gas meter box look like? Most residential (apartment and single-family) meter boxes look like this:

    Schematic of the most common type of residential meter box. Image: Tokyo Gas

  3. To re-set gas flow, first remove the black rubber cap covering the reset button.
  4. Slowly push down on the reset button and immediately release.
  5. The red indicator light will start to blink.
  6. Wait three minutes. While the red light is blinking do not use any gas appliances.
  7. After three minutes have passed, you can start using gas appliances again.

Official Video from Tokyo Gas

This is the official video from Tokyo Gas, which shows how to re-set your gas meter and re-start gas flow.

The audio is in Japanese, but there are English sub-titles.

You may also be interested in: Earthquake building codes and technology in Japan