Policy and systems of flood risk management: a comparative study between Japan and Spain


This paper shows a comparison from the perspective of flood risk management between two regions of different countries: Tokyo Metropolis (Japan) and Catalonia (Spain). The comparison is based on flood damage data for a 30-year period (1981–2010), legislation, disaster management plans, recovering measures, and communication strategies. A total of 219 flood events and 110 deaths were recorded in Catalonia during 1981–2010, while there were 191 floods in Tokyo, during the same period, giving place to 27 deaths and missing people. In both countries, most of the deaths occurred outdoors and the majority as a consequence of imprudent behavior. Nearly 10% of flood victims in Catalonia were foreign citizens. Regarding the institutions from the state and the communities involved in flood risk management, we have found a similar structure between the two countries. In accordance with the European Floods Directive, all the Spanish regions susceptible of having floods have flood hazard maps for different return periods, including 500 years while in the case of Japan the return periods are usually shorter. Recently, flood risk maps have been built for Catalonia, but none is available in a foreign language. Although all the maps are available in Internet, in Spain it is not mandatory to distribute maps to the public neither evacuation maps in flood-prone areas. On the contrary, evacuation and hazard maps in Japan have some parts written in different languages. In both countries, flood hazard maps are not compulsorily linked to other countermeasures such as land-use regulation (the municipality has the last decision) or flood insurance. Thresholds of heavy rain warnings are similar in both countries, using rain amounts over both short and long periods. Although the Japanese method appears more sophisticated using humidity and runoff indexes, it is too complicated for people to understand it. In contrast, only Catalonia has forecast thresholds considering probability levels. On flood insurance, only Spain has governmental aid to the flood insurance system. The level of flood risk perception is low among the population in both countries, and social communication for flood risk is insufficient, mainly in Catalonia. Thus, it is very important that individuals recognize the flood risk in the area to reduce the number of victims.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

Source: Google Maps

Fig. 4

Source: Google Maps

Fig. 5

Source: Web site of Office of Rivers of Keihin, MLIT

Fig. 6

Source: Web site of Hino City

Fig. 7

Source: Web site of Hino City

Fig. 8

Source: Web site of Hino City (Japan)

Fig. 9
Fig. 10


  1. Barrera A, Llasat MC, Barriendos M (2006) Estimation of the extreme flash flood evolution in Barcelona county from 1351 to 2005. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 6:505–518

    Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Braud I, Roux H, Anquetin S, Maubourguet MM, Manus C, Viallet P, Dartus D (2010) The use of distributed hydrological models for the Gard 2002 flash flood event: analysis of associated hydrological processes. J Hydrol 394(1–2):162–181

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Burton I, Kates RW, White GF (1993) The environment as hazard, 2nd edn. Oxford University Press, Oxford

    Google Scholar 

  4. Defra (2005) Making space for water: taking forward a new Government strategy for flood and coastal erosion risk management in England: first Government response to the autumn 2004 “Making space for water” consultation exercise. Defra, London

    Google Scholar 

  5. Delitala AMS (2005) Perception of intense precipitation events by public opinion. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 5:499–503

    Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Drabek TE (2004) Social Dimensions of Disaster (2nd edn.) Instructor Guide. Emergency Management Institute, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emmitsburg, Maryland

  7. Drabek TE (2006) Sociology, disasters, and emergency management: History, contributions, and future agenda. In: Mc Entire DA (ed) Disciplines, disasters and emergency management: The convergence and divergence of concepts, issues and trends in the research literature. Emergency Management Institute, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Emmitsburg, MD

  8. European Parliament (2007) DIRECTIVE 2007/60/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council—of 23 October 2007—on the assessment and management of flood risks, Official Journal of the European Union. L288/27-L288/34

  9. Faulkner H, McCarthy S, Tunstall S (2011) Flood risk communication. In: Pender G, Faulkner H (eds) Flood risk science and management. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 386–406

    Google Scholar 

  10. Fischer HW (1998) Response to Disaster: Fact versus Fiction and its Perpetuation: The sociology of disasters. University Press of America, New York

    Google Scholar 

  11. Grams CM, Binder H, Pfahl S, Piaget N, Wernli H (2014) Atmospheric processes triggering the central European floods in June 2013. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 14:1691–1702. doi:10.5194/nhess-14-1691-2014

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Hall J (2003) Handling uncertainty in the hydroinformatic process. Hydroinformatics 5:215–232

    Google Scholar 

  13. Hall JW, Penning-Rowsell EC (2011) Setting the scene for flood risk management. In: Faulkner H, Pender G (eds) Flood risk science and management. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 3–16

    Google Scholar 

  14. Hally A, Caumont O, Garrote L, Richard E, Weerts A, Delogu F, Fiori E, Rebora N, Parodi A, Mihalovic A, Ivkovic M, Dekic L, van Verseveld W, Nuissier O, Ducrocq V, D’Agostino D, Galizia A, Danovaro E, Clematis A (2015) Hydrometeorological multi-model ensemble simulations of the 4 November 2011 flash flood event in Genoa, Italy, in the framework of the DRIHM project. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 15:537–555

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Hino City, Hazard Map of Hino City, http://www.city.hino.lg.jp/index.cfm/198,0,311,1850.html. Accessed 27 Jan 2016

  16. Hiroi O, Nakamura I, Nakamori H, Matsuo I, Morioka C (2001) The inhabitant’s behavior and disaster information dissemination in urban flood, report on research of disaster information 51, University of Tokyo (in Japanese)

  17. Hiroi O, Ichihara N, Muraki A, Sakurai M, Matsuo I, Kashiwagi S, Hanahara H, Nakamori H, Nakamura I, Sekiya N, Udagawa S, Tanaka A, Tsujimoto A, Cheng S (2003) The information and behaviors of inhabitants: the localized heavy rain in TOKAI area, 2000, report on research of disaster information 55, University of Tokyo (in Japanese)

  18. Hiroi O, Nakamura I, Tanaka A, Fukuda M, Nakamori H, Sekiya N, Morioka C (2005) The problem of information dissemination and inhabitant’s behaviors of local severe rain in Niigata and Fukushima, 2004, report on research of disaster information 66, University of Tokyo (in Japanese)

  19. Hiroi O, Tanaka A, Nakamura I (2014) The information dissemination and behaviors of the inhabitants in the flood of Kanda River 2005, disaster-information management 7 (in Japanese)

  20. Interagency Floodplain Management Review Committee (1994) Sharing the challenge: floodplain management into the 21st century, U.S. Government Press, Washington, D.C. http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/dhs/fema/sharing.pdf. Accessed 27 Aug 2014

  21. ISO (2002) Risk management vocabulary guidelines for use in standards

  22. Kates RW (1962) Hazard and choice perception in floodplain management, University of Chicago, geography department research paper 78

  23. Kawada Y (2012) Intending to promote the study of disaster reduction, presentation paper for the 10th forum of social technology, (in Japanese)

  24. Kuhlicke C, Scolobig A, Tapsell S, Steinfuhrer A (2011) Contextualizing social vulnerability: findings from case studies across Europe. Nat Hazards 58:789–810

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Kundzewicz ZW, Ulbrich U, Brücher T, Graczyk D, Krüger A, Leckebusch GC, Menzel L, Pińskwar I, Radziejewski M, Szwed M (2005) Summer floods in Central Europe—climate change track? Nat Hazards 36(1):165–189

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Lara A, Saurí D, Ribas A, Pavón D (2010) Social perceptions of floods and flood management in a Mediterranean area (Costa Brava, Spain). Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 10:2081–2091

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Lindell MK (2011) Disaster studies, Sociopedia. http://www.isa-sociology.org/publ/sociopedia-isa/sociopedia-isa-list-of-published-entries.htm. Accessed 27 Aug 2014

  28. Llasat-Botija M, Llasat MC, López L (2007) Natural Hazards and the Press in the Western Mediterranean Region, Advances in Geosciences. European Geosci Union 12:81–85

    Google Scholar 

  29. Llasat MC, Llasat-Botija M, López L (2009) A press database on natural risks and its application in the study of floods in Northeastern Spain. Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 9:2049–2061

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Llasat MC, Llasat-Botija M, Guamis J (2011) Risk perception and communication in Catalonia. Geophysical research abstracts, vol 13, EGU2011-10978-1

  31. Llasat MC, Marcos R, Llasat-Botija M, Gilabert J, Turco M, Quintana P (2014) Flash flood evolution in North-Western Mediterranean. Atmos Res 149:230–243

    Article  Google Scholar 

  32. Luther J, Meyer V, Kuhlicke C, Scheuer S, Unnerstall H, Fuchs S, Dorner W, Seidel J, Serrhini K, Palka G, Priest S, McCarthy S, Pardoe J, Viavattene C (2013) Improving flood maps to foster participation and raise flood risk awareness. In: Klijn F, Schweckendiek T (eds) Comprehensive Flood Risk Management: Research for Policy and Practice. CRC Press, London, pp 374–376

    Google Scholar 

  33. Maki M (2010) Urban flood. Tenki 57–3:43–45 (in Japanese)

    Google Scholar 

  34. Marincioni F (2001) A cross-cultural analysis of natural disaster response: the Northwest Italy floods of 1994 compared to the US midwest floods of 1993. Int J Mass Emerg Disasters 19(2):209–239

    Google Scholar 

  35. Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan (MLIT) (2013a) Publicity paper of 2013.3.29, on revision of guideline for making flood hazard maps, http://www.mlit.go.jp/report/press/mizukokudo03_000623.html. Accessed 11 Jan 2014 (in Japanese)

  36. Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism of Japan (MLIT) (2013b) Portal site for hazard maps, http://www1.gsi.go.jp/geowww/disapotal/index.html. Accessed 27 Aug 2014 (in Japanese)

  37. Nakamura I (2011) Communication of warning to the people, series of disaster countermeasures—disaster responses, Hyogo Shinsaikinen 21 seiki kennkyu kikou, pp 32–37 (in Japanese)

  38. Nakamura I (2016) Philosophies of Disaster management: Comparing Japanese and EU Legislation on Disaster. The Buletin of the Faculty of Sociology Toyo University, No.54-2, 47-61 (in Japanese)

  39. National Research Council of USA (1989) Improving risk communication. National Academy of Sciences, Washington

    Google Scholar 

  40. Office of rivers of Keihin of MLIT, cartography of assumed inundation area of Tama river, http://www.ktr.mlit.go.jp/keihin/keihin00194.html. Accessed 27 Jan 2016

  41. Okabe K, Hiroi O, Mikami S, Matsumura K, Yamamoto Y, Ikeda K, Ikeda K (1983) The Activity of Organization in the Nagasaki Flood 1982, Report on Research of Disaster Information 10, University of Tokyo (in Japanese)

  42. Olcina Cantos J, Hernández Hernández M, Rico Amoróos AM, Martínez Ibarra E (2010) Increased risk of flooding on the coast of Alicante (Region of Valencia, Spain). Nat Hazards Earth Syst Sci 10:2229–2234

    Article  Google Scholar 

  43. Parker DJ, Priest SJ, Tapsell SM (2009) Understanding and enhancing the public’s behavioral response to flood warning information, meteorological applications, special issue: flood forecasting and warning 16–1 March, 103–114

  44. Policy Research Institute for Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism) (2011) A study on the social system to reduce flood damage, 2011 PRILIT research reports 98, pp 1–296, (in Japanese)

  45. Pottier N, Penning-Rowsell EC, Tunstall SM, Hubert G (2005) Land-use and flood protection: contrasting approaches and outcomes in France and in England and Wales. Appl Geogr 25:1–27

    Article  Google Scholar 

  46. Renn O (2008) Concepts of risk: an interdisciplinary review. GAIA Ecol Perspect Sci Soc 17–1:50–66

    Google Scholar 

  47. Slovic P (1987) Perception of risk. Science 236(280–285):1987

    Google Scholar 

  48. Steinfuhrer A, DeMarchi B, Kuhlicke C, Scolobig A, Tapsell S, Tunstall S (2007) Vulnerability, resilience and social constructions of flood risks in exposed communities: a cross-country comparison of case studies in Germany, Italy and the UK. Report T11-07-12 to the FLOOD site Project. UFZ Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig

  49. Tanaka A et al. (2005) The problem of information dissemination and inhabitants behaviors of local severe rain in Niigata and Fukushima, 2004, Research survey report in information studies, The University of Tokyo, no 23, pp 163–287

  50. Tapsell SM (2011) Socio-psychological dimensions of flood risk management. In: Pender G, Faulkner H (eds) Flood risk science and management. Blackwell, Oxford, pp 408–427

    Google Scholar 

  51. Tilling RI (1989) Introduction and overview. In: Tilling RI (ed) Volcanic hazards. American Geophysical Union, Washington, pp 1–8

    Google Scholar 

  52. Tokyo Metropolitan Government (each year: 1982–2011) The record of floods (in Japanese)

  53. UNISDR (2009) Terminology on disaster risk reduction, http://www.unisdr.org/eng/terminology/UNISDRterminology-2009-eng.pdf. Accessed 27 July 2014

  54. UNISDR (2012) Impact of Disasters since the 1992 Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit. http://visual.ly/impacts-disasters-1992-earth-summit. Accessed 27 July 2014

  55. Ushiyama M (2015) An analysis of victims caused by heavy rainfall disasters in Japan from 2004 to 2014. Tohoku J Nat Disaster Sci 51:1–6 (in Japanese)

    Google Scholar 

  56. White AVT (1986) From Hazard Perception to Human Ecology. In: Kates RW, Burton I (eds) Geography, Resources and Environment. University of Chicago Press

  57. Yoshida Y, Furumoto K, Baba M (2008) Study on land use and social system about disaster, report of Policy Research Institute for Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism 30, 32–53

Download references


This study received funding from Toyo University (fund for abroad special study) and was developed during the stay of Prof. Nakamura at the University of Barcelona. We acknowledge the Catalan Water Agency and Civil Protection of Catalonia for information, as well as the meteorological services AEMET and SMC. Thanks go to Montserrat Llasat and Joan Gilabert for collaboration and to Edanz Group Ltd. for reviewing the paper. The study has been developed in the framework of the international HYMEX project and the Spanish project HOPE (CGL2014-52571-R).

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Maria Carmen Llasat.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Nakamura, I., Llasat, M.C. Policy and systems of flood risk management: a comparative study between Japan and Spain. Nat Hazards 87, 919–943 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-017-2802-x

Download citation


  • Flood risk management
  • Flood warning
  • Japan
  • Spain
  • Catalonia
  • Tokyo
  • Barcelona