Written by Tuure Kinnunen
Earthquake?! Get Prepared at the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park
Natural disasters such as earthquakes are common in seismically active countries such as Japan. Follow me as I visit the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park and get a crash course on survival for the eventuality of a big earthquake breaking out.
“After a natural disaster such as a big earthquake, if a person doesn’t receive help in 72 hours, he will die. I think it’s actually less”, explains the tour guide to her audience which today is a group of approximately twenty children.
They are about to set for a tour in a park that has a very serious theme, which is something that concerns anyone visiting Japan, let it be short or long term. How can you prepare yourself for when the inevitable takes place, which in this case is an earthquake of a massive scale that would cause extensive damage to the country’s capital?
Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park
The Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park, located in the scenic seaside of the Ariake area in Tokyo, is a facility that teaches young and old visitors how to prepare for natural disasters. The two-story facility has been lately renewed and updated utilizing data from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and the following tsunami.
The institution as seen from the outside.
The 2 hour experience is separated into two tiers. The first floor is called the Experience Center. It is a place that will test your impromptu abilities to survive in an environment when a disaster takes place. The second floor is the learning floor, a part of the tour that teaches visitors the essentials about the correct code of conduct in the case of a calamity, as well as facts regarding why earthquakes occur and how they can affect populated areas.
Set Off On A Journey That Could Save Your Life
At the beginning of the tour I am handed a tablet computer that will later act as a map, a portable quiz and a data bank to use throughout my journey. I then get on an elevator as if I was casually making myself out from a shopping center. That is where the well-simulated disaster takes place. The elevator shakes and rumbles and the lights go off while the elevator’s announcement system tells me that there has been an earthquake and I should get off as soon as possible. The doors open and that is when my real journey begins.
This neighborhood was struck by a level 7 earthquake on the Japanese seismic scale. Can you make your way out?
Making my way out through the dimly lit corridors I finally make it “outside” and a horrifying scene unveils before my eyes. Collapsed buildings, dangerously hanging electric wires and fires that have ensued as a result of the large scale earthquake surround me as I make my way forward.
With my tablet computer with me I am being prompted quiz-type questions as I proceed on the path. What should I do if I am in an elevator when an earthquake strikes? What is the correct interpretation of the symbols on the map? Not all of the questions have obvious answers.
As you make your way through the park, make sure to use the tablet you've been given. You will be surprised by things that you can learn from it.
I finally make my way out from the disaster struck area into a simulated evacuation site that is jam-packed with useful information such as how to make a portable toilet or a stove from a park bench without permanently harming it.
The dummy jumped and rumbled wildly as a staff member made the seat it is placed on shake like it would be in the case of a strong earthquake.
In the middle of the room is a guarded-off area and in the middle of it there is an elevated bench with a test dummy sitting on it. At the staff’s command the bench starts to jump and rumble in an increasingly violent manner as it goes from degree 1 to 7 in the seismic scale. As the simulated quake gets to its strongest moment, your get an idea of what the people in the northern regions of Japan experienced in their homes during the 2011 earthquake.
Now That You Experienced It, Learn From The Experts
I then proceed to the second floor, which is the disaster prevention learning zone. The area is full of research information; both projected predictions about possible upcoming disasters and their consequences, as well as professional-approved best practices for surviving in the harsh post-disaster environment are presented.
A Tokyo inland earthquake could happen at any time. Are you prepared?
As I am told that usual visitors are either families with small children or groups of school children, the second floor is also a space for playing card games that are specifically designed to challenge the player’s critical thinking and decision-making abilities. An earthquake has occurred and I should be going to pick up my daughter from school, but I hear a child yelling for help. Should I help her or rush to pick up my daughter and ensure her well-being? The topics are difficult even for adults to consider and there are no right answers.
The second floor also features small workshops where you’ll get a chance to practice creating a simple raincoat from a trash bag and folding a pamphlet into a simple cup.
A small origami cup folded from a pamphlet. Cover it with a bag and it becomes a cup for drinking!
Center of Operations in case of Natural Disasters
As we make our way to the second floor, the more serious purpose of the building becomes clear. We get a view of a mission control room that turns into a center for operations if a large earthquake takes place. The two hundred seats are empty but the computers, printers and fax machines are plugged in and ready to go at any time. Should a large earthquake take place, the government makes a decision if the room should be utilized or not.
This is the nerve center where important decisions are made in case of a natural disaster.
The heliport in the middle of a lush park is another indicator of the real purpose of the facility. In the case of a natural disaster, the heliport that accommodates seven helicopters will be fully utilized when experts try to solve some of the toughest challenges that the country might encounter.
Even if the park’s usual guests are small children with their parents, do not make the mistake of thinking that adults cannot learn anything here. I did not get full score in the quiz that I completed on the tablet computer I was given, and this determined me to recommend visiting the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park to my friends.
I asked my tour guide what is the one thing that she would want everyone to remember. "The possibility of a large-scale earthquake striking Japan in the next 30 years is over 70 percent and growing. Please be prepared and remain calm if and when it happens", she summarizes.
Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park
Address: Tokyo, Koto ward, Ariake 3-8-35
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9:30 - 17:00 (last entry at 16:30)
Closed: Mondays (open on Mondays that are public holidays, closed the next day). Closed on year's end and new year holidays, other temporary closed days.
Wi-Fi: Not Available
Credit Cards: -
Language support: Japanese, English.
Nearest Stations: Ariake Station on the Yurikamome Line
Access: Exit Ariake station. On your left hand side before Tokyo Big Sight is a cancer research institute. Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park is right before it on the left.
Entrance fee: Free
Website: Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park (English, Japanese, Korean, Chinese)