National

Earthquake safety book for children wins praise

Kyodo

An illustrated book created by a nonprofit organization in Aichi Prefecture to inform children how to protect themselves in an earthquake is winning wide-ranging praise.

The NPO Kasumin, based in the city of Kasugai, issued “Jishin ga Kitara — Bosai-ehon” (“When a Quake Hits — A Picture Book on Disaster Prevention”) in April 2012. It was inspired by the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 2011.

“The lives of children are the most important,” said Kasumin leader Yasuo Yamashita, 46. “I want (kids) to learn how to protect themselves.”

Yamashita, who runs a laundry business in Kasugai, said the 3/11 disaster reminded him of the need in his area to prepare for the widely predicted earthquake in the Nankai Trough, south of Honshu, which is expected to cause severe damage to the region.

“It made me feel we need to do something for our own city,” he said.

Since 2009, when Kasumin was established with the aim of enhancing community networks, the organization has held a variety of events targeted at children, including lectures on crime prevention.

Six months after 3/11, Kasumin held its first event on earthquakes, featuring quiz competitions and a picture-card show.

The event proved so popular with children that the group has since organized similar events more than 20 times at kindergartens and elementary schools in Kasugai and neighboring municipalities.

The group has updated the book with feedback from the disaster prevention office of the Aichi Prefectural Government, as well as the local fire department and other authorities.

To make the information in the book easier to follow, illustrations of adorable animals have been added to the instructions, such as “Put on your shoes when you run,” and “Step away from vending machines or concrete-block walls.”

Owing to the book’s popularity, its main character — a 5-year-old girl named Harukaze-chan — was named last year the Kasugai Municipal Government’s official mascot. Since then, Harukaze-chan has appeared at various events in a specially designed costume.

Copies of the illustrated book have been distributed to kindergartens, nursery schools and elementary schools in Kasugai, and have also been donated to a number of kindergartens in Gifu and Mie prefectures.

It has been made available online and is downloadable at: www.city.kasugai.lg.jp/dbps_data/_material_/localhost/ehon2.pdf .