Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Disaster is my middle name...

Last Sunday, I attended a seminar about what to do during a Natural Disaster. It was sponsored by the Nara International Foundation: Commemorating the Silk Road Expedition. Yes, I know. It should be called NIFCSRE…but that just isn’t catchy enough. Either way, about 4 JETs and hopped boarded the free charter bus bound for the southern part of Nara City. 25 other people of Chinese, Japanese, Brazilian, and Dutch heritage joined us. I suppose this seminar was for foreign people living in Japan, but no one told me.

Once the seminar began, we were all broken into 2 large groups. My group went first. We were going to “experience” the 3 major disasters that Japan has to offer: Fires, Earthquakes, and typhoons.

Fire: We were brought to a room that had a gigantic tv screen on one side and a crapload (this is the metric system remember?) of fire extinguishers on the other. After a brief explanation about how fires start and spread (most commonly when people hang clothes above their space heater. Noted.), a video of a fire was played on the giant TV. The idea behind the next exercise was to aim our fire extinguishers (pressurized with just water, mind you) at the fire and “put it out” before it spread too much. The tv screen was obviously special. It could feel the pressure from the water and judge if we were hitting the right areas. The children in our group went first. They stopped the fire ASAP. Then it was the gaijin group’s turn (the 4 JETs including myself). We did worse than the kids.


1. Yell “Kaiji da!” (FIRE!!)
2. Start spraying
3. Stop the stupid fire


1. I yell “Don’t cross the streams!”
2. Aim everywhere, BUT the fire
3. Get showed up by little kids

Fire Part 2: The 2nd part of the fire portion was a “smoke” filled maze. We had to feel our way through a maze while our vision was obstructed by a fog machine and absence of light. Some doors were locked, some were chain linked, and others were open for us. As we were casually walking through this simulation, I asked:

Me: Hey, where is Shadowcat? (remember, x-men names now)
My group: I don’t know.
Me: She better not have ditched us in here.
My Group: Dude, I don’t hear her. I think she left us…to die.

When we emerged from the labyrinth, we saw Shadowcat. She was casually waiting for us at the end…laughing. The jokes flew and laughs were had until our group’s leader berated her. All of us were laughing at Shadowcat for being singled out until our translator told us, “Stop laughing, she’s being serious.” Yes sir.

Earthquake: There was a platform that, when activated, shakes violently simulating a earthquake. The kids were the first to go again. Their earthquake’s strength was a 3.0. Wimps. Then, the gaijin group walked onto the platform. Oh, let the embarrassment begin. Our earthquake was REALLY strong. I actually bumped my head a couple times against the poles meant to help us AVOID getting seriously hurt. I have to imagine our group leader laughing her ass off (inside her head) watching the foreigners jiggle about violently. When we finally stepped off (40 secs later), she told us that our Earthquake was a 7.0, more than twice the kids’ simulation. FML.

Typhoon: We stood in a wind tunnel as a fan blew air at us at 20 m/s. I don’t know the conversion to mph, but the wind was strong. Only funny thing to report during this simulation was that because of Shadowcat’s height and weight, she actually had to LEAN into the wind to avoid being knocked over. Ahhhh, justice.

When we returned to the multipurpose room (hehe, nostalgia), we were treated to a lecture about disaster preparedness including medical supplies, bags, and food. They even made us taste their disaster food, basically bread from a can. Yum…bleh. Following the seminar, NIFS gave each of the participants a bag with batteries, a flashlight, thermal blanket, etc. It was nice.

Also, one of my students pointed out that I was on the new last night!!! The prefectural new station at the seminar interviewed me. My contact at NIFS is trying to score a copy of the interview for me. When I get it, I will post it.

As always, I’ll end with something hysterical. This is a picture of a box of clothing from a nearby children’s store. The name of this store has not been edited. Enjoy:


  1. This reminds me of the MOSI natural disasters exhibit but only more cool and intense.

  2. How do you fail at spraying water on a fire? Those simulators sounds really neat. Also free stuff is pretty good too. Did you get to sing songs in the multipurpose room? ;-)

    Do you know why the store is called that? BTW: someone also found a store in Japan, http://superant13.blogspot.com/2010/04/strange-shop-names-starvations.html.

  3. At one point the fire broke off into two blazes, and we, like idiots, only aimed for one of them so the other continued to spread. We were having too much fun anyway.