Foreign residents gathered for a seminar in Tokyo’s Minato Ward on Saturday to learn how to use disaster kits and protect themselves during emergencies, even if they can’t speak Japanese.

The event, which was held in English with the help of volunteers, taught about 60 non-Japanese who live, work or study in the ward how to use the Dial 171 emergency voice message board and operate public defibrillator units. They also learned how to call for emergency assistance.

Held in a building north of Hamamatsucho Station, the event, the first of its kind organized by the ward, also featured workshops on crafting disposable tools, such as slippers made out of newspaper and ponchos fashioned from vinyl garbage bags. Seminars of this kind are usually held only in Japanese.

Hannah Peters of Las Vegas, a student at Temple University, said she enjoyed using disaster kits, which she rarely sees back home.

“It’s reassuring, because you see things on TV and you can watch videos all day. But unless you actually experience it, that’s not the same,” Peters, 28, said. “I think this is a really good idea for any residents in general, whether they are Japanese citizens or foreigners.”

Tom Kasahun, a 31-year-old consultant from Ethiopia, said he enjoyed learning how to use a fire extinguisher while wearing real firefighting gear.

“The jacket was very heavy … It was very tough. It was very hot inside,” he said after going through the drill. “If some accidents happen, I can perform the way I exercised today. So it was very nice.”

Gelana Zaharan, a doctor from Singapore who arrived in Japan two weeks ago, said she was “interested in learning about how to access emergency services, because I heard that sometimes it can be difficult if you don’t speak Japanese.”

The mother of four young children said she was hoping her kids would learn how to be prepared for an actual emergency.

“I would like for them to feel like they could have some control of the situation. If there was an emergency and I wasn’t home, maybe they could call and get an ambulance or know what to do if there is a fire or something like that,” she said.

In Tokyo’s 23 wards, the foreign population has expanded by about 30,000 since last year and stood at a record of 414,245 as of April 1, according to Tokyo Metropolitan Government statistics.

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