Japan Wakes to a Text Message: Missile Approaching

August 29, 2017





A woman checking for notifications from Japan’s nationwide emergency alert system at Sapporo Station, in Hokkaido Prefecture, on Tuesday. Credit The Yomiuri Shimbun, via Associated Press

TOKYO — In earthquake-prone Japan, the public has grown accustomed to seeing regular alerts on television and their cellphones advising them to seek cover or move inland in advance of a tsunami. But on Tuesday, residents received a rare warning: A missile was approaching from North Korea and was likely to fly over parts of Japan.

Citizens living beneath the missile’s flight path received a beeping alert on their cellphones at 6:02 a.m., just four minutes after the projectile was launched, rousing some from sleep.


An alert sent to residents of northern Japan at 6:02 a.m. saying a North Korean missile had been launched. Credit Thomas White/Reuters

At the same time the phone alert was sent, the public broadcaster NHK cut into its early morning newscast with a black screen warning citizens that a missile was approaching and they should take cover.


Warnings broadcast in Tokyo on Tuesday. Credit Kazuhiro Nogi/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

In Sapporo, the capital city of Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, sirens went off, telling citizens to seek shelter.

At Tokyo Station, one of the world’s busiest train terminals, an announcement on platform loudspeakers advised commuters: “Right now a North Korean missile is flying over Japan. It’s very dangerous. Please seek cover inside a train or in a waiting room.”

The government estimates that the missile broke into three pieces and landed about 730 miles off the coast of Hokkaido around 6:12 a.m.

Yet, a minute later at 6:13 a.m., NHK broadcast: “In case the missile passes over Japan, it seems like it will take about 10 minutes. At the moment, no announcement has yet been made as to whether it will pass over Japan.”


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