“No one can tell when natural phenomena such as typhoon, urban flooding, thunderstorm, tornado, earthquake, tsunami waves, volcanic eruptions will occur. To minimise damage, it is essential to be prepared for them in our daily life.”
This introductory text of the museum is essentially the raison dʼetre of the establishment dedicated to the public for free viewing. It simply states and reminds viewers that they are in a country that sits in the ring of fire. Japan has had its fair share of natural disasters and its people are well acquainted with its damaging effects. Hence, I felt an immediate sense of foreboding, uncertainty and fear. But it also filled me with immense gratitude for the fearless endeavours of many unnamed heroes.
It is inspiring to see how much work has been done, and is continually being done by the Fire and Rescue Department in saving lives at risk in actual disaster events. In as much as rescue is a priority, inculcating awareness amongst the public is of equally prime importance. The museum exhibit is but one way to achieve this. It informs the public and creates in them a sense of urgency and vigilance.
A visit to this museum may seem serious. But trust me, it can be likened to a day at Disneyland, especially for firefighter wannabe kiddos. There is fun to be had in areas with interactive and hands-on experiences. Many of the exhibits have English translations which is nice. It only takes about an hour or two to go through all levels, depending of course on how much time you have to spare. Take the lift if you wish to commence your tour from the tenth floor. You can then use the stairs on your way down. Before exiting the premises, take a peek at the museum shop. They have interesting items on sale. When youʼre good to go, there is direct access from the museumʼs basement entrance to the Metro Station Yotsuya Sanchome. Pretty easy, huh!
Hereʼs what you can expect to see and do on your visit:
In the first basement, you will see the evolution of firefighting trucks used since the very first model in the 1920ʼs. Six giant red trucks are on display and a helicopter made in France aesthetically hangs from the ceiling. The Museum shop is also stationed here.
The main entrance is on the first floor, though recently visitors are directed to use the basement entrance. “Fire-kun”, the fire mascot, is stationed here. And the helicopter seen from the basement can be viewed closer on this level.
Todayʼs Fire Service uses current technology displayed on the third floor. There are interactive monitors, animated presentations and video games. Mannequins are dressed with the latest rescue wear such as scuba gear and radiation suits. In short, the exhibit here shows how the fire service members prepare and respond to fire alarms and provide emergency medical services. Kids have an opportunity to play dress-up, climb into a fire engine or take a virtual ride around the city in a cockpit. Sounds fun, right?
The fourth floor showcases the Changes in Japanʼs Fire Service, highlighting its rapid progress and modernization after the mid 19th century. Firefighting equipments and
functions have greatly improved. Some of the items on display are the old red motorcycles, the horse-drawn steam-powered water pump, woodblock prints, old photographs and film footages.
The Dawn of Fire Service in the Edo period is featured on the fifth floor. If you like history, here lies your chance to travel back in time. This level is full-on with tools, clothing and other equipment used in the earlier days. The hikeshi started the systematic fire service in the 17th and 18th centuries. Firefighters used a matoi to warn people of fire. These are the large signs in black and white. There is also a diorama that depicts scenes of destruction, and a video presentation of a traditional bunraku puppet that tells the story of men who risked their lives and devoted themselves to rescue mission.
Another special feature found on this floorʼs roof deck is the red helicopter visible from the street below. You have another opportunity to sit in a helicopter! Be warned though that this area isnʼt always open to the public.
The sixth floor displays special educational exhibits. It has an event room, childrenʼs room with firefighter-related games, puzzles and audio-visual room that shows animated films. On the seventh floor is the fire service/disaster library which is open only in the afternoons on certain days.
The Observation Room which offers a view of Shinjuku subcenter, Tokyo Skytree, and Mt. Fuji on a clear sunny day is on the tenth floor. Vending machines for drinks are available here and you can also bring your own snacks to eat. Itʼs a great place to have a quick rest, nibble a snack and hydrate. There is also a display on the walls that shows how to cope with disaster in a high-rise apartment building. In the event that a disaster happens while youʼre in the museum, donʼt panic as you are perhaps in the safest place in town, with a real operating fire station as your friendly next-door neighbor.
So if youʼre looking for something to do that doesnʼt hurt your budget but still come away informed and entertained, the Fire and Rescue Museum is definitely a good option. And a better one if youʼve got kids to tag along.
Website (in Japanese): http://www.tfd.metro.tokyo.jp/