Disaster reduction walk rally hosted by Chuo students                                                                 ひらやま減災ウォークラリー ―地域の防災意識向上に中大生らが企画―


An unprecedented havoc wreaked by the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 has profoundly changed the Japanese people’s consciousness of disaster prevention.




This is evident from the result of a poll carried out by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. The 2012 survey on change of people’s consciousness after the quake/tsunami tragedy showed that more than 50% of the respondents mentioned “a greater awareness of disaster prevention.” More impressive was another similar poll conducted by the Cabinet Office in December 2013. It asked people how damage can or should be reduced. The percentage of those who chose “public support” by the central and local governments was 8.3%, down 16.6 points from the previous poll in 2002. In contrast, “balanced public, mutual and self-help” was favored by 56.3%, up 18.9 points.




This indicates that more people attach importance to “self-help” and “mutual help” through closer cooperation between residents, volunteers and business corporations rather than relying on the government. To appeal the importance of “mutual help”, a group of student volunteers from Chuo and Meisei universities has organized what they call “Hirayama walk rally for disaster risk reduction”.




The program is aimed for children and their parents in the Hirayama area of Hino City to learn about disaster prevention. Some 150 elementary school children and about an equal number of parents are going to take part in the first walk on November 15. They will learn where fire hydrants and fire prevention water tanks are located and where they can be dangerous when hit by a quake. They do not simply walk. As they will walk past check points, they will be given various questions so that they can enjoy learning about disaster prevention while walking.




The questions may include ones about Hirayama Sueshige, a feudal warlord who lived in Hirayama between late in the Heian period (794-1185) and early in the Kamakura period (1185-1333) so that children can also learn history and culture. The participants are going to be served pork miso soup prepared by the host students and local residents along with “alpha rice” that can be ready by simply adding hot water like instant noodles.



This volunteer activity is joined by students from universities other than Chuo and Meisei. After launching their organizing committee in April, they met time and again, tried the rally course to check its safety and deepened their relations with local people by participating in community social gatherings.




This is claimed to be the first such attempt in Japan by university students. The activity may make people more conscious of disaster prevention and the universities friendlier with the community. Let us hope that it will serve as a model in spreading similar movements across the country.




(Written by: Takahiro Kusunoki)