When North Korea fired a missile over Hokkaido island in a frightening show of power this morning (Aug 29), the Japanese government scrambled to send nationwide mobile alerts to millions while announcing warnings on radio and TV.
Nice. But what's the point, asked netizens, who freaked out immediately upon receiving the first message that North Korea had launched a missile and that they should take cover in the basement or in a strong structure.
Obviously more upset than grateful to have received the warnings, many netizens asked: Is there enough time to run for cover? Why didn't the army shoot down the missile?
These and other questions were raised on social media platforms by Japanese and foreigners working in Japan, which saw the rogue nation of Kim Jong-un shooting a missile over its territory for the fifth time when many were still in bed just before six o'clock in the morning.
The missile snapped into three pieces and fell into waters some 1,180 kilometres east of Cape Erimo in Hokkaido, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.
The fear of a surprise nuclear attack gripped many at first, especially Hokkaido residents, as it was the first time the hostile neighbour fired a projectile over their heads.
A northern Japan resident, who was shaken by the incident, said in a forum: "Early warning phone broadcast woke us up and we huddled around the TV. At one point we were informed the missile was right above our area. Holy s***, I was actually having to think there was a chance I would die in a nuclear attack."
"That was terrifying," said a Reddit user after getting the alert on the mobile phone. "I was terrified checking every news source and calling friends."
Office worker Ayaka Nishijima, 41, from Morioka, the capital of Iwate prefecture, 300 km south of Cape Erimo, said she was woken up by the alert on her cellphone but didn't know what she should do.
"I didn't feel prepared at all. Even if we get these alerts there's nowhere to run. It's not like we have a basement or bomb shelter, all we can do is get away from the window," she told Reuters.
Dismissing this morning's alerts as pointless, netizen 'Bungle' said: "The Japanese government is advising people to go out and seek shelter! What a joke. With the flight time being as short as it is, you would barely have enough time to put your head between your legs and kiss your **** goodbye let alone escape!"
Although Japan residents felt relieved when told in the second message that the missile had hurtled past Japan, many were clearly annoyed with the way the government handled the latest provocation by the hermit nation, which had threatened earlier this month to fire a missile over Japan towards the US territory of Guam in the Western Pacific.
Said netizen 'Bruce': "Japan's military is a joke, and how Abe is going to protect the people when he let the missile go through his living room and doing nothing about it, and telling people to be precautious while sleeping early morning. Well, Japan is becoming (sic) Kim's playground from now on."
The missile is believed to be a new intermediate-range Hwasong-12, the same type North Korea threatened to target Guam.
Netizen 'Wolfpack' highlighted the spectre of a massive disaster if the government does not stop leader Kim Jong-un's dangerous war games.
"This is a very serious escalation. Past overflights were before North Korea had nukes. Little Kim is a lunatic. Could you imagine what might have happened had that missile malfunctioned over Hokkaido! I don't know this for a fact of course but Japan may not have tried to shoot down the overflying missile because they likely didn't expect a launch to the north and had no anti-missile units stationed up there," he said.
Japan has vowed to shoot down North Korean missiles or rockets that threaten to hit its territory, but made no attempt to do so today when the missile flew over the country for two minutes, reported AFP.
Defence minister Itsunori Onodera said his generals believed it "posed no risk of flying into our country".
In Hokkaido, public sirens went off as loudspeakers repeated automated warnings, causing panic and confusion among helpless residents who told the media they didn't know what to do. Bullet train services were also temporarily suspended.
An official in the coastal town of Erimo told AP the phone alarm worked but not the 50 speakers in the town. He said people were shaken up as it's the first time a North Korean missile is believed to have flown over Hokkaido.
"Today is really quite a horrible day for Japan," security commentator Ankit Panda of The Diplomat said on Twitter.
"If North Korea assesses the costs of overflying Japan to be anything but intolerable, we'll see more of these kinds of tests."