December 26, 2012

Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Centre (Ikebukuro Bosaikan)

On our first day in Tokyo we went to the Ikebukuro Life Safety Learning Centre (池袋防災館) to learn about earthquakes and prepare ourselves in case a disaster should occur while we were in Japan. It sounds dramatic, but an earthquake measuring 5 on the seismic intensity scale had struck Tohoku a few nights before, and we were warned that before the Great East Japan Earthquake there had been an earthquake of a similar size. There were concerns that this earthquake would also trigger something larger (luckily, it didn't).

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 with a friendly-looking statue of an elephant. 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
We started out in the earthquake simulation room, which was set up with a table and chairs to represent an apartment, complete with a backdrop of the Tokyo skyline. We were given five different earthquakes in Japan's history (including 3.11), so that we could experience what different types and magnitudes feel like, and had to take cover when an earthquake siren sounded. While it started out as a laugh, once the shaking began there were a few white knuckles gripping the table legs.

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 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.


  1. Looks like "fun". I have seen portable earthquake simulation vehicles around Tokyo. It's just a big truck that opens up with a small room inside. Seeing the light fixture swinging violently up top is pretty scary. Also, seeing the levels go up for each Intensity Scale level is pretty interesting. I'm sure it is scarier to experience than it is to see though. Videos can never do it justice.

    As for the training, in all honesty, you never know what you'll do until it is too late. During the big 3.11 quake, it started shaking and I thought, "boy, this is long". Nothing too serious but when it got bigger and bigger, I was just frozen. I didn't know if I should just get under the desk or not. Needless to say, everyone was safe. All the training in the world may not be enough to override your instincts. Hope you're always safe from these sorta things.