When Kiyoto Abe, 53, touched a small container filled with mud with a handheld massager, an orange pingpong ball slowly surfaced, wowing about 80 children watching it.
Abe, a freelance news anchor who put on the show, smiled complacently and started talking about liquefaction, a phenomenon whereby saturated soil loses integrity in a strong earthquake.
“People tend to think that nothing will happen to themselves (in times of disaster),” said Abe, who conducts science shows to raise awareness of disaster prevention. “The first step is to have interest in disaster prevention measures.”
In his science show, Abe manually creates electricity, cuts styrofoam with a heating wire, and uses a blow dryer to suspend a ball in midair — all in an effort to draw children’s attention to the subject.
In between the stunts, he shows scenes from the March 11, 2011, mega-earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku and what he went through at the time. At the end, he usually wraps up the show by talking about how disaster preparedness is important.
His motivation for doing the shows was the unprecedented 3/11 calamity. Right after it began, he went on NHK radio, calling on the public to stay alert for aftershocks, even though he had no idea what had happened to his own family.
Looking outside the next day, Abe was devastated by the wreckage in his hometown and full of regret, knowing in retrospect that if had he raised more awareness of disaster preparedness, many lives might have been spared.
He started placing more weight on the disaster prevention theme in his science show starting this summer after the earthquakes in Kumamoto Prefecture. Many of the victims in Kyushu weren’t prepared.
When he gets requests, Abe takes his 20-kg suitcase full of show props and performs across the nation.
“Even after the show is over, I hope parents and children discuss how they can prepare for a disaster when they go back home,” said Abe. “That’s what’s important.”
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