I experienced my first earthquake not too long ago. It was surreal. If I hadn't been sitting perfectly still, I would have missed it. Though it doesn't make much sense, it was like the ground rippled. Of course, it was an extremely small quake. As probably everyone knows, Japan is prone to earthquakes. In only a week, there are upwards of a hundred earthquakes that can be perceived by humans in the Japanese islands. This makes me a little nervous. Luckily, the Tokyo fire department runs the Ikebukoro Osaikan, basically a disaster museum for scaredy cats like me. If you make the tour, you can learn a little bit about first aid. The instructor will speak on a simple level of Japanese if you know a little bit of the language, and even if you don't, my instructor knew a few pertinent words and terms in English. Then, you can put out a simulated fire. Being someone that's never used a fire extinguisher before, this was something of a treat, though it was only filled with water. By far, the best part of the museum is the earthquake simulator. It's a normal sized room outfitted with most of the trappings of an ordinary kitchen. Since the point of the museum is to promote emergency preparedness, there are certain tasks that you and your group are supposed to accomplish, such as turning off the stove and propping the door open. After you've done that, take shelter under the table and experience the uncomfortable thrill of the quake. Then, you'll be led to the mouth of a smoke filled maze. Never fear, it's not real smoke: it just gives you a feel for what it would be like to escape from a smoke filled house. This is somewhat more difficult than it seems. To borrow a cliché , it's both fun and educational, and in my opinion, a great way to spend two hours of your afternoon.
I've never been to an earthquake museum before. Actually, it's more of an interactive fire and earthquake safety museum, and it's quite well organized and executed. The place is government sponsored (it's on top of the Tokyo fire department in Ikebukuro) and completely free-you just need to book in advance to be sure of getting in. There was an alarming large group of elementary schoolers on a field trip, but fortunately my friends and I were siphoned off into another tour group, which was targeted more to adults. First, a fireman ran us through basic CPR maneuvers on surprisingly high-tech dummies. Although the presentation was in Japanese, I just imitated what everyone else was doing and actually had a fun time. The fireman was very helpful and understanding of English speakers, and spoke a little. However, I felt bad taking him away from the other Japanese speakers to ask questions.
The tour lasted about 1.5 hours and was really entertaining. We navigated through smoke filled rooms used fire extinguishers to combat a simulated fire. My personal favorite was the "earthquake room," in which groups of 3-5 people were given instructions about what to do in an earthquake. We started sitting at a dining room table, with the rest of the tour watching through a video camera from an adjacent room. The earthquake simulation started - a respectable 7.0 magnitude - and we scrambled to prop open the door, cover our heads, and duck under a table. I was deducted points because I forgot to turn off the simulated cooking range. Oops.
I'd recommend this museum for kids of any age - even though its all in Japanese, you can follow along with the crowd without any difficulty, and it's lots of fun.
Have you ever been in an earthquake? Do you know what to do during one? Can you give CPR or use a fire extinguisher? The Earthquake museum is not so much of a museum as it is an instructional course on several safety tips in a fun an informative way run by the fire department. You normally need to make reservations for here, but everything is free of charge. It took us an hour and a half to do all the stations, but they were actually enjoyable to do. Our first station was CPR. In the room there were about 10 full sized dummies laid out on a blue mat. Each dummy is hooked up to a small monitor with a printer available to show how well you did. While we received instructions in Japanese, they were easy enough to understand through his gestures and examples of what to do. They are quite accommodating and very friendly, but you will not be able to receive English instruction. After that, our guide led us to a room upstairs that had two large vents, two large TV's, and an entire row of fire extinguishers. Here, we learned how to use a fire extinguisher, and in groups, we actually got to use them to put out a fire. It was not a real fire, but one on the TV that we shot the extinguishers at. It was a lot of fun. Next, we went to the earthquake room. We sat in front of a TV that showed a short video of what to do in an earthquake and received instruction from our guide. In groups we went into a model dining room while the rest watched on the monitor. There was a table with cushions and chairs, a stove, sink, and a hallway door. Suddenly, after we were seated, the room shook violently and we had to do everything we had learned, like turn off the stove and prop open the door and then take cover under the table. It was quite realistic simulation and exhilarating. Lastly, we went to the last location, the smoke room. We watched a video as to what to do when we are in a building that is filling with smoke, and then got to experience it. We had to navigate our way through a series of doors when the hall was covered in a sort of artificial smoke making it impossible to see more than 2 feet in front of you. It is definitely a great experience and teaching tool to go through this. I highly recommend this earthquake museum.