What to Do: Free Earthquakes

If you've been in Japan more than a few weeks, you have likely felt at least a light tremor. What does a real earthquake feel like? The Tokyo Northern Disaster Research Center has an earthquake simulator that you can experience free of charge. They'll simulate a series of small quakes, ranging from 2 to 8 on the Japanese scale.

The simulator can also let you experience the exact magnitude and duration of the 1923 Kanto Earthquake and the 1995 Kobe Earthquake. The Center also has a simulator showing how to escape from a smoke-clogged hotel fire and offers demonstrations on the proper use of fire extinguishers. While all the demonstrations are in Japanese only, even kids can follow along without much trouble. Our youngest was age 5 and enjoyed the shaking and bumping around, but you might want to let children around that same age watch one cycle of quakes if you are not sure how they might react.

Take the Namboku Subway line to Nishigahara Station, about 30 minutes from central Tokyo. The Center is about a five minute walk from the subway station, just past the gigantic Tokyo Hospital and the local fire station. For more information call 03-3940-1811 (Japanese only).

Next door to the Center is a nice park, with climbing stuff, a big slide, a fake waterfall and big rocks to jump around on, all free. Across the street is a convenience store, so see the earthquake center, buy lunch at the store and let the kids run around the park while you enjoy a picnic.

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