Sunday, September 06, 2009


September 1st is National Disaster Prevention Day in Japan. But because the day fell on a weekday (Tuesday) this year, most towns and cities had a disaster drill on the first Sunday of September so that many people could participate. Yes, we, too, had it today. And it was the most laid-back drill I've ever had in my entire life! :D

Since a major earthquake is expected to hit this area in the near future, it was meant to be an earthquake drill more than anything. And having experienced the Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake when I lived in Hyogo prefecture, there was no way that I could ignore or skip the drill.

Well, to be perfectly honest, I had been rather reluctant to prepare for earthquake before moving into my parents' house. Fourteen years ago, on that cold morning of January 17th, 1995, we couldn't even stand up during the outrageous vertical shake. Turn off the gas and electric supply? Open the front door? Ha! Most buildings collapsed within the first 20 seconds, for God's sake! It's no use... I had been quite cynical, if you want to put it that way.

But I recently realized that this time I'm with my parents. It's not how "I" evacuate and survive, but how "we" do that. In other words, it's how I take the elderly couple with bad legs to the shelter and help them survive. Mmmm... I definitely need to know where to go, how to get there and what to take with us. So my motivation was already pretty high on the day before.

There was a public announcement beforehand, so we knew that we needed to go to the designated evacuation point at 9:00 A.M. on Sep. 6th. On Saturday, I asked mom where the gas cock (tap?) was -- She didn't know, and I found it outside the house. :O The circuit breaker was inside the house, of course, but way high up on the wall and no one in my family could reach. :O

And the time came.

... I waited to hear an announcement or a siren... Nothing. After several minutes, I thought I heard a weak siren in the distance, but not sure. When mom and I got outside, we saw 3 or 4 neighbor grannies with parasols sitting on a low brick fence. They were taking a break and waiting for their friends so that they can evacuate together. (It's about three minutes walk from their houses to the evacuation point -- if they were young.)

When we got there, 4 or 5 more aunties and grannies were waiting. There were only two men: a young guy from the local "youth fire fighting team" and a middle-aged guy (my relative) living right next to the evacuation point. Looks like my relative was a designated leader for this group; he had a huge antique walkie-talkie with an antenna as long as a fishing rod. He spread two weed mats on the ground for the grannies to sit on, but most of them preferred standing, saying that they wouldn't be able to get up again once they sat. One relatively young woman (at my mom's age?) sat on the mat and joked, "OK. Coffee next?" Everyone laughed.

The leader counted us and tried to report the number to the community leader. The walkie-talkie wasn't working. LOL And that was all. Everyone just went home. No lecture on "dos and don'ts" of earthquake. No explanation of how to get to an evacuation shelter.

I assume that the shelter is the gym of the elementary school which was closed several years ago. The rumor says that some local people wanted the gym to be open to the community so that they could play ping pong or badminton at nights, but the local government said no because it was too old and not safe. :O Could it be safe as a shelter after being shaken by an earthquake? But then, where else? And I really wonder if anyone ever thought about how to actually move the elderly people from the evacuation points to the shelters after the road is destroyed by the earthquake. And how are they actually going to send water and food supplies to isolated shelters in that case?

I'm pretty sure that the answers I get from the community people to above questions will be "I don't know" with a big laugh. Almost everyone I talk to around here says, "There's no way we can survive. The mountains will collapse and tsunami will wash everything away. We've got nowhere safe to go. It'll be the end when a big earthquake comes. That's it," and laughs. Well, it may be great that this elderly-dominant rural place is full of people who already attained undisturbed peace of mind, but it sure doesn't help disaster prevention planning. LOL

Oh well. I guess I'm going to buy an emergency dynamo radio flashlight (which can recharge cell phones) sometime soon. With that thing, my family might be able to at least contact someone without depending on that walkie-talkie.
... Hope the earthquake doesn't hit before my parents learn how to use it...
posted by obachan, 9/06/2009 07:52:00 PM


hello obachan! I started reading your blog entries from the oldest one (now I am on the Dec 2004 entries). I am really enjoying reading your blog. You write really good and I think you have a good sense of humor.

I hope you continue writing. :-)
commented by Blogger Unknown, 9/08/2009 4:53 PM  
Hi! Thank you for your nice comment.
My writing is not really good, but I'm sure I'll keep writing. With humor, of course. ;)
commented by Blogger obachan, 9/09/2009 3:08 PM  

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