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Japan-the country that has the most earthquakes but is still resilient to them


Japan, also known as the country of the rising sun, has the misfortune of being situated in the Ring of Fire in the Pacific Ocean. The specific location of Japan is formed by four tectonic plates and this is why it has so many earthquakes. One thing to remember is that Japan is also home to numerous tsunamis and typhoons. Fun fact, the typhoons actually helped Japan when they were needed, because for example when the Mongols or when the Huns wanted to attack Japan, they were unable to get on the islands.

Going back to the subject at hand, with natural disasters becoming more and more frequent, the innovative designs to tackle them, are well welcomed. Such ideas combine the old Japanese traditional ways of building homes or temples with the new industrial performances. Some other measures that are applied in this country or other ideas, may just come as common sense. We will take a look at a few of those techniques and come to the conclusion that some of them can be implemented in other places around the world.

The first measure is represented by the skyscrapers designed to either sway, bend or flex instead of snapping under the pressure of the earthquakes or to move, so that nothing is felt inside of the building. How do they work more precisely? Well some of them have a pendulum on the upper levels of the skyscraper or on top of them. During the earthquakes, the pendulum sways in the opposite direction of the one in which the building would normally sway. This is one of the ways in which a tall building can be made to be safe during a natural disaster. At the same time, there is also another technique of designing the skyscrapers, which was used for the building of the second tallest tower in the world, the Tokyo Skytree. This tower is used for observation and broadcasting, and in the center it has a concrete core column connected to the tower’s steel outer frame by a series of flexible oil dumpers. Those devices control the vibrations from the earthquakes and stabilize the tower. This core column is set on six seismic isolators made of rubber, these absorb unwanted movement and work together with the oil dumpers. The concrete core was inspired by the traditional Shinbashira, which is the flexible central pillar of the Japanese Pagoda. The Pagodas were designed with these pillars because they had to resist the earthquakes and typhoons, which they clearly did, if we can still see them today and the oldest one is over 1350 years old.

The second measure used for the repression and recovery after the natural disasters are the 50 sites across Tokyo have been designed as disaster prevention parks. The emergency response after the disasters will be coordinated from the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park. This park, as the other sites, is used generally for picnics or outdoor activities, but in cases of emergencies they are all well equipped. For example the Ike Sunpark is used as the base for disaster management in Toshima City. Besides all of the normal facilities that are found in almost every park, the Ike Sunpark also has a heliport, parking spaces for small and large tracks, and obviously paths around the park specifically designed to be big enough for them. At the same time, besides functioning as a heliport, and as a collection point for relief supplies, it also functions as a temporary evacuation site. The park is safe even in cases of big fires, because only oak trees were planted with the purpose of preventing the spread of the fire. There are only two different kinds of trees that remained in the park as a symbol of the memories made there by the people before the park was redesigned. The capacity of the park is of about 2500 people. Other facilities include: Emergency water supply facilities, deep wells, an earthquake resistant water storage tank, power supply facilities and a solar supply source located on top of the main building of the park. Inside of this building there are 15 toilets, two of them for disabled individuals, and an emergency power generator capable of functioning for 72 hours in case of a power outage. An interesting invention that is found here are the Kamado (furnace) benches. Usually, they would be used as normal sitting places but in case of emergency the lock is removed and from underneath a metal structure that can be used as a furnace is taken out. There are also an emergency public phone, a disaster prevention radio and camera, balloon floodlights and a big storage room.

One of the most impressive infrastructure initiatives, known as the G-cans, is another measure in case of natural calamities. The building of those five silos took 17 years and each of them has 67 meters in height. Those cans capture the waters from flooding, cyclones, typhoons, or tsunamis to a water discharge tunnel located at the outskirt of Tokyo. After that, the tunnel safely redistributes the water into the Edo River.

Another measure for disaster risk reduction in Japan are the schools. Only half of them are used as rescue centers. The Hoyu Elementary School, where the evacuees from the Ike Sunpark are being sent, is one of them. One of the facilities for which they are being used are the disaster toilets. Not all of them are perfect and the ministry is trying to improve them after the powerful earthquake that struck the Kumamoto Prefecture. What was the problem? Many of the evacuees, that were sent in the schools of that area, suffered of health deterioration because of improper toilet facilities. On the bright side, all of the schools in Japan, be them elementary, junior high or high schools, are conducting regular, if not monthly, earthquake drills. Some of the schools are even sending the children in special facilities of firefighters to experiment the true feeling of an earthquake from early age.

There are many other measures used in Japan that should be taken into account by other countries, and governments, of the world. The first one being, that in most of the houses there is an emergency kit which includes: bottled water, food rations, gloves, face masks, insulation sheets and survival tools like: torches, radios or breaking glass hammers. Those kits can be bought from most drug or lifestyle stores. Also, all the telephones in Japan are equipped with an emergency alert system that sets off an alarm five to ten seconds prior to the natural disaster. Another measure is that all the television channels are always interrupted during an earthquake by the official earthquake coverage. With this the citizens can keep up with the information of what is happening exactly and how to stay safe. The last important measure that Japan is providing are the ready bullet trains. As we all know Japan is a train-dominated country and their network of bullet trains is representing the future of transport. To ensure the safety of the passengers the trains are provided with earthquake sensors that are triggered to freeze every moving train in the country if necessary.

It is a lot of information, I must admit, but you may never be perfectly prepared in case of a natural disaster. There is always something to be improved, but certainly Japan is the role-model of ideas and measures anti-natural disasters.

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