Disasters in Japan: How to Prepare for Emergency?

Disaster Prevention Park

The Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park is a massive area of 13.2 hectacres in the Ariake waterfront region of Tokyo. Completed in 2011, it is an intriguing and unique place. On a daily level, it is a recreational park with facilities for barbequing and picnics and a museum with science workshops for kids on the weekends. There are outdoor sports equipment that visitors can borrow and weekly tai chi classes. But the park has a more practical side. It is also designed as a disaster relief center. The park area becomes a basecamp site for emergency response units, incoming volunteers and emergency shelter. The one-hectare between the park and the adjacent hospital for triage is connected with a wide, paved pathway that ambulances can pass through. The roofed resting areas can be fitted with a tarp and double as tents with benches storing emergency supplies. The lights at the park are all solar power.

A simulation of an office after a major earthquake
A simulation of an office after a major earthquake

The museum is much more than that. As the Ariake no Oka Disaster Prevention Base, the facility is the communication center for all government agencies and municipal governments with teleconferencing capability through land lines and satellite coordinating emergency disaster relief for the Kanto region including Saitama, Chiba and Kanagawa Prefectures. The in-house generator is capable of producing electricity for seven days of continuous operations. There is also a large stock of food, water for both drinking and washing. There is a helipad for emergency rescues at the park. The entire facility is built on a seismic isolated area and the land is solidified against liquefaction since it is on reclaimed land.

During non-crisis situations, the park and museum are open to public use. The main feature of the museum is the Tokyo Earthquake 72-hour simulation experience. The Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Museum offers a rare and exciting simulation quiz that is educational and fun at the same time, appealing to adults as much as children. When you hear the phrase simulation game, the image that comes to mind is probably of sitting in a vehicle watching a 3-D screen. Here, visitors actually walk through a film set of what a city may look like in the aftermath of a major earthquake. Visitors must answer a quiz game carrying a Nintendo DS game console, programmed in Japanese and English, about making the right safety decisions in the chaotic setting.

The Nintendo DS handset for playing the survival quiz
The Nintendo DS handset for playing the survival quiz

The simulation begins by entering a department store elevator during an earthquake and following the emergency route in the dark. The noise and the darkness can be frightening for young children.

The theme of the game is “how to survive the first 72 hours after an earthquake.” In fact, the museum mantra is that citizens must survive on their own for the first three days because emergency workers are dealing with heavy casualties and repairing infrastructures. The purpose of the museum is to educate people on how to avoid dangerous situations in the chaotic aftermath and use emergency facilities properly and stay safe. The good thing about the simulation experience is that because of being surrounded by frightening scenes, even adults can learn they might panic and make wrong choices.

After playing the simulation game, there are other educational resources at the museum. There are two films both subtitled in English. One is a short documentary predicting the actual destruction of a large-scale earthquake in Tokyo. The other is an 18-minute edited version of Fuji Television’s award-winning animation, “Tokyo Magnitude 8.0” about a pair of siblings surviving the first days of a major earthquake without their parents.

Picture boards explaining how everyday items can be used in emergencies
Picture boards explaining how everyday items can be used in emergencies

There is an information lounge with computer quiz games about earthquake safety information. While there are many games like this at science museums, the answers have a very practical purpose of informing about how to survive a disaster. Information includes which subway stations in Tokyo are equipped with emergency supplies. There are display boards showing how ordinary household goods such as PET bottles and plastic bags can be used in emergency situations. There are also stations where visitors can practice making food containers from newspaper. Emergency tents, toilets and supplies are also on display. There is also a viewing area where visitors can see the main control room of the emergency relief center. Resembling the NASA space control center, with the multiple screens and the rows of chairs equipped with telephones and photocopiers – it is a well-prepared workspace we all hope will never be used.

The Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park

3-8-35 Ariake, Koto-ku, Tokyo 135-0063
Telephone:03-3529-2180 https://www.ktr.mlit.go.jp/showa/tokyorinkai/english/index.htm

Admission: Free

Hours: 9:30 am to 5 pm (except on Mondays)

(The museum is located across the road from the Panasonic Risupia Museum which is also worthwhile to visit and makes for a great day trip.) 

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