Training in Japan: A Man Cannot Respond to What He Cannot Imagine

Training in Japan: A Man Cannot Respond to What He Cannot Imagine



From February 11 to 20, 2020 six representatives of different subdivisions of MES RA, four journalists from four media were trained in Japan in the frameworks of “Disaster Risk Reduction Crisis Communication and Public Awareness Improvement” Project carried out with the joint efforts of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of RA and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The head of the team was Deputy Minister Arkadi Balyan. This was already the third training carried out by this project.

Training in Japan ․ Man Cannot Respond to What He Can’t Imagine-1

The first two trainings were conducted in Yerevan, in 2019.

Disaster risk reduction, management, including population training, crisis communication and public awareness are of vital importance for Japan: in Japan, which is spread on more than 6 800 islands (377 944 square km), there are more than 2000 cracks on the Earth crust, 670.000 risk zones; 20 percent of the world’s earthquakes happen in Japan, 70 percent of active volcanos of the world are in Japan, floods, landslides, heavy rains and suchlike phenomena frequently take place there. It is in the result of such abundance of risks that Japan has successful and rich experience in crisis communication and public awareness.

For example, for the accurate population protection from landslides, they have sorted them: rapid collapse, flow of water-mud mixture – downpour, soil slide. They have done calculations according to the strength and duration of the rain and today in Japan they can predict with 70 percent accuracy when, where and what type of landslide can take place.

In Japan they speak about disaster risk every day and on all levels, they don’t avoid discussing their own mistakes and after each disaster they improve all what they know, what they do starting from the laws up to the technique and public awareness tools. For example, thousands of people died because of earthquake in Kobe on January 17, 1995. The housing of the city was quickly restored and in 2001 there weren’t any temporary shelters in the city. In 2002, by the means of the Government of Japan there was founded Kobe Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution- DRI.

One of the employees of the center mentioned that such a strong earthquake had happened in Japan more than 30 years ago; they had forgotten about the disaster preparedness, that’s why they were so many victims and the material loss was great. According to the Deputy Head of the Institution, Project Manager Toshitaka Yano, DRI works in three directions: organization of disaster risk reduction exhibitions, film screening; scientific research, and trainings for the community heads.

Today in Japan there are more than 80 institutions, (part of which is attached to the fire-fighting detachments), which deal with these issues. DRI is the only one, which works in three directions. There work at the institute 9 doctors from different universities of Japan and 9 researchers under their guidance. The spectrum of scientific topics is rather wide – non-traditional security, disaster medicine, sorrow and community, methodology of distributing aid to the affected and so on. The slogan of DRI is “We haven’t forgotten January 17, 1995”. All suchlike institutions have a slogan.

Life Safety Learning Center attached to Tokyo Fire-fighting Department is specialized in public awareness “Education Through Games” format and organization of population training. The slogan of the center is “Try, Have fun, Learn”. Here you can feel the influence of a strong wind, heavy rain, earthquake, fire smoke. The center was constructed by the initiative of territorial, regional authorities; it received certain sums from the budget. At the expense of the town and village budgets pupils, students, elderly people are brought here to “play” and “to learn”. The Armenian delegation was in a room shaking from the earthquake, in the smoke-covered zone and under the heavy rain together with a strong wind.

In Japan they all cooperate in disaster risk reduction issues – state bodies, regional structures, local self-governing bodies, citizens and the private sector. For example, at the earthquake museum of Kobe Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation Institution there work people, who have seen earthquake and they tell the visitors about what had happened and they teach them not to repeat their own mistakes.

In the result of the multilateral cooperation for the sake of disaster risk reduction, after the earthquake in 2011 there was established LINE corporation. LINE is a variant of Viber, Whatsapp and suchlike mobile applications known to the citizens of Armenia. Today 65 percent of the population of Japan uses this application. LINE suggests a wide spectrum of services. For example, in the house of an elderly living alone, it places a toy-like bear, which in fact is a direct connection with the rapid response service. The man, who needs help, just pushes a button and meanwhile the professionals hurry to help, a trained expert maintains a continuous connection and talks with the affected. LINE intends to provide a new service to the elderly living alone (who can have auditory, visual problems, limited mobility). It intends to inform the children and relatives that their parent is in a disaster zone and should be evacuated as soon as possible. The children or the relatives will either come to help or will call rapid response services.

After another disaster in 2018, at Tokyo University there was established “Disaster Management Training Center –DMTC”. Their slogan is “Knowledge to make decisions and to act”. The center deals with scientific-research works; there are involved both the lecturers of the university and high rank officials formerly dealing with disaster risks in the state system. For example, the expert of the center Itto Tesuro in his time has been Deputy Head of Staff of the Government of Japan in crisis management issues.  With the efforts of the center there was also developed a disaster response system, which allows convening a special session of the government 28 minutes after the disaster and forming an operative headquarter.

After Kobe earthquake in 1995 the government convened a session only 5.5 hours after the disaster. There were also developed three main points of the first message of public awareness: what is happening, what the government tries to do, what the government awaits from the citizens. The doctor of the center Kimiro Megura is sure that the government should do everything to exclude “unnecessary anxiety”.

In Japan they know that an earthquake or a tsunami is a natural phenomenon and you cannot eliminate it, but if you live correctly, it won’t hurt you. In Japan when talking about disaster risk reduction they prefer to say disaster enemy and they are leaded by three simple principles: “recognize your enemy, know yourself and imagine the disaster”. According to Itto Tesuro, a man cannot response to what he cannot imagine.



Photos by the author and Japan International Cooperation Agency

P.S. The mentioned institutions have websites, they print and distribute leaflets. These institutions are regularly referred to by the local media as well. Disaster risk reduction crisis communication and public awareness is a priority for the Japanese TV channels, particularly for the Public TV NHK.

the material is taken from

Thanks to Ruzan Khojikyan for the provision of the material!

translated from Armenian into English by M.Vardanyan