Benjamin Franklin was wrong, there are three certainties in life: death, taxes and earthquakes in Japan. According to statistics, Japan has over 1000 earthquakes a year large enough to be felt, and many, many more that are too small for us to notice. However, the last time any major earthquake struck the Tokyo area was back in 1923 when a 7.9 magnitude quake pretty much obliterated the city. For years now, seismologists have been saying that the time is ripe for the next one to hit, but Tokyo consistently manages to keep putting off it's supposed fate for another day (knock on wood), not that I'm complaining or anything. When the next big earthquake will arrive is still a mystery, but if there's one thing everybody is sure about it's that it will come eventually. So how does one prepare? For those of you who are worried and feel a need to brush up on your earthquake survival skills, head to Ikebukuro Bosaikan (disaster prevention center). This isn't some pansy place where they give pep talks and show videos though, here you can enter the earthquake room and find out firsthand what a magnitude 7 earthquake actually feels like!
The goals of the simulation were to: a) open and put something infront of a door to avoid it being stuck in a closed position (I managed this), b) to turn off the gas on the stove to avoid fires (I forgot this one), and c) to get under the table with a cushion over your head (most people just did this first and stayed put). Obviously when it was my turn, the person I asked to film me messed up, so instead you can see how a Japanese family of four works together under pressure. Do you think they passed?
It probably looks a bit scarier than it actually is. I was under the distinct impression when it was our turn that the person at the controls was going easy on us. As well, a lot of important things were left out of the demo, such as windows breaking, more and bigger stuff falling on us, the roof caving in, the building falling down, etc. Still, it was a semi valuable lesson I suppose, and they also gave us hands on instruction in avoiding smoke inhalation - we had to crawl through a maze-like course filled with supposedly harmless but foul smelling smoke; fire fighting - we learned how to use fire extinguishers; and general CPR where we practiced trying to bring dummies back to life. Best thing about it though was that it was free! They say nothing is free in Japan but apparently there's still no charge for learning to stay alive. Thanks Ikebukuro Bosaikan!