The earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan in March were only the last in a row of natural disasters rocking the Far East recently. In 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami left more than 200,000 people dead and missing. The 2006 Java earthquake and tsunami were disastrous as well.
Why was the death toll in Japan, which suffered no less awesome disaster, so low, compared to the other cases? Because Japan was prepared. It had connected itself to early warning systems, and had built effective means of relaying the vital information to the public in time.