National

Tokyo's Mori Building marks Hanshin quake anniversary with disaster drill

by Daisuke Kikuchi

Staff Writer

Marking 22 years since the Great Hanshin Earthquake on Tuesday, property management firm Mori Building Co. held an annual disaster drill at its major complexes in Tokyo which for the first time targeted foreign residents and tourists.

As the nation gears up to host an increasing number of overseas visitors — the government is targeting 40 million a year by the time the Tokyo Olympics are held in 2020 — the drill was conducted in Japanese, English and Chinese and saw some 1,300 Mori Building employees participate.

“A large portion of shoppers and residents are foreigners, and there are also many offices of foreign firms” in the Roppongi Hills complex, said Mori Building spokeswoman Mayumi Purro. About 40 percent of residents living in properties leased by the company are non-Japanese.

Mori Building has been preparing evacuation measures, “but with the Tokyo Olympics coming up, we found it necessary to be prepared further,” she said.

At Roppongi Hills, Mori Building employees were split into two groups playing the roles of shoppers and guides. The shoppers were guided to an evacuation site inside the building.

A simulation of a multi-language disaster information booth was also set up, where staff responded to questions that included information on train operations, lost passports and hotel vacancies in the three languages.

“If I was unable to speak Japanese, it would be comfortable if staff spoke to me in Chinese,” said Hui Yan, a Chinese employee of Mori Building who role-played as a shopper during the drill.

Although most employees of Mori Building are Japanese, Purro said many are fluent in foreign languages and are capable of providing needed assistance during disasters.

“For now, it’s in Japanese, English and Chinese, but we will consider additional languages if there is a need,” she said. Roppongi Hills has room for roughly 5,000 evacuees and has a stock of roughly 100,000 meals.

Elsewhere, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government is scheduled to hold an annual disaster drill Friday in English at Komazawa Olympic Park in Setagaya Ward.

An earthquake simulation vehicle will be on hand for participants to experience what various-size quakes actually feel like. A lifesaving training event will also be held, while a simulated evacuation shelter will be readied inside the gymnasium for participants to see what life at such a site would be like.

“People who came to Tokyo from overseas may not be familiar with earthquakes, so the main purpose of the drill is having them experience the situation,” said Toshiyuki Yamazaki, an official at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Bureau of Citizens and Cultural Affairs.