Dec 2021


Visiting the Honjo Life Safety Learning Center

Have you ever experienced an earthquake, flood, or fire?
According to JMA (the Meteorological Agency of Japan), approximately 2000 earthquakes occur in Japan every year, though many of them are benign shakes. This week, earthquakes have been occurring more frequently with more intensity.

While natural disasters are here to stay, we can prepare for them together. On Sunday, November 28th, we visited the Honjo Life Safety Learning Center near Kinshicho Station, which is close to popular tourist attractions such as Ryogoku Sumo Hall and Tokyo Sky Tree. 

This trip began with a 20-minute animated movie about three kids who experience an earthquake in Japan. The subtitles were available in English, Chinese, and Korean. It was a moving story about how we can not only prepare for a natural disaster, but also for life after it as well.

When you walk around the building, you will notice lots of images and sculptures of elephants around the center. According to the staff, the elephant is a major symbol for the firefighters at the fire station next to the center. Elephants also collaborate as a community, and supply their own water, representing unity and resilience.

After the film, we visited the earthquake simulator. The display looked quite futuristic, with text projected on windows. The first simulation was at Shindo 5, and took place at a convenience store. Guests were told to face downwards on mats and protect their heads as the ground would shake. The Shindo 7  was much stronger, and it was harder to remain grounded as the shaking increased (*Shindo is a Japanse Seismic Intensity scale). This simulation took place in a bedroom, as earthquakes at this level could occur in the middle of the night. 

Next, we learned how to use fire extinguishers and practiced taking out fires. In a real situation, you would yell out, “Fire!” but to avoid the spread of COVID-19, we did not speak as loudly. Fire extinguishers are easier to use than they appear, and directions are usually written in English and Japanese on the label.

Here is how you can use one.

  1. Pull the pin at the top of the fire extinguisher. Do not pull it until you have reached the site.
  2. Take the hose out of the extinguisher and aim it at your target.
  3. Squeeze the handle at the top of the extinguisher to take out the fire. Once you are finished, do not put the pin back into the extinguisher, as it should only be inserted if the extinguisher is full.

We also practiced evacuating a smoky room during a simulation as a group. When you enter any building, it’s helpful to find at least two exits to escape to in case of emergency. As we walked through the dark room, we crouched down to minimize injuries. It is also important to reach your hands out first and then proceed to move forward to avoid bumping into walls ahead of you.

The final simulation we participated in was the flood simulator. You can practice opening the door of a building or a car door. Usually, anyone can open a door when a flood is at 10-20cm. However, at 30cm, it is hard to open the door with one person alone. If you are in a car during a flood, it may be difficult to open the door against the pressure of the water. You can use a hammer to break through the window.

When you arrive at the information desk, you can earn a card for completing the tour. If you collect all 5 (by attending four more times), you can earn a certificate from the center.

We left the center feeling informed and empowered. This center will teach you how to not only manage risks in a literal sense, but also mentally prepare yourself calmly in case of an emergency. 

Honjo Life Safety Learning Center website: https://tokyo-bskan.jp/en/bskan/honjo/