Run by the Tokyo Fire Department, the Life Safety Learning Centre offers a range of disaster preparation activities, including first aid, fire fighting, rescue and escape, and earthquake simulation.
Despite being a place that deals with disasters, there is no shortage of Japanese cuteness and commercialism. Upon entering the Centre you are greeted by a friendly statue of an elephant, and this character appears on signs around the place. A souvenir stall in the reception area contains an impressive array of products featuring firefighter Hello Kitty (who knew she was so multi-talented)?
|The ever-optimistic disaster elephant at the Life Safety Learning Centre|
There was also a smoke maze, which was designed to resemble a hotel, to prepare you should a fire occur when you are in an unfamiliar environment. We were put in a dark corridor with numerous doors, and had to crawl our way to the correct exit, as 'smoke' poured in. It was a claustrophobic experience, and if you didn't crouch low enough, a buzzer would go off, signalling death by smoke inhalation.
The Life Safety Learning Centre is a strange, perhaps even slightly morbid attraction that you would probably never think of going to. It's definitely a unique experience though, and probably a useful one if you live in Japan, where earthquakes are common. Unfortunately, the one thing that seems to be missing is information on how to escape a tsunami (we were simply advised to 'follow the Japanese people around you to higher ground')... considering the majority of casualties on 3.11 were caused by the tsunami, it seems more education is needed in this area.
In New Zealand we have a similar exhibit at Te Papa Museum, where you can experience the 1931 Napier Earthquake, and there is talk of creating a simulation of the September 2011 and February 2012 Christchurch quakes.
Visit the website here (Japanese).
Address: 2-37-8, Nishiikebukuro, Toshima-ku, 171-0021 Tokyo.