As anyone who has lived in Japan before knows, earthquakes are a part of daily life. Most of the time they are so small that you barely notice them – however, it is important to be prepared for the possibility of a large earthquake, such as the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011. In order to provide citizens an opportunity to learn about what they should do if a large earthquake or other type of disaster occurs, many areas in Japan hold annual bousai kunren (disaster training).
Areas in Japan have actually been holding disaster drills since the Edo period – usually revolving around putting out fires with bucket relays. September 1, the day of the 1923 Great Kanto earthquake, was designated bousai no hi (Disaster day) in 1960, and many places in Japan hold disaster drills on this day.
This year, Ibaraki Prefecture held its annual disaster drill on November 9 in Kasama city’s Geijutsu no Mori park. Despite the unseasonable chill there was a great turn out. Many organisations took part, such as the prefectural fire department, the police department, and the Ibaraki International Association, who invited a number of foreign residents to attend and gave some of its members the opportunity to practice interpreting in the context of a disaster situation.
Participants were given the opportunity to be a part of a bucket relay, to learn how to use fire extinguishers and perform CPR on adults, children, and babies, perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a mannequin, use their own manpower to generate electricity for a vending machine to get drinks out for free, experience different levels of earthquake in a truck that simulated the motion of an earthquake, and much more. There were rescue demonstrations from trains, crashed vehicles, and burning buildings. Helicopters flew overhead to collect data on the damaged areas and drop water on ‘fires’, and landed to carry gravely injured people to nearby hospitals.
A number of tents provided information that would be helpful in a disaster, such as how to leave a message for your loved ones when the phones are down and what kinds of things you should keep in your emergency pack. Volunteers handed out steaming bowls of tonjiru (pork soup), a meal often provided at emergency shelters during disasters.
All in all it was a very educational day, and one every resident should attend at least once.