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[Video Article] 100 Years Since the Great Kanto Earthquake! Preparing for the Next Disaster at the Rotating Exhibit "Onko Bishin" (Preparing for a Disaster Using Knowledge of the Past) of the Japanese

This year marks 100 years since the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923. It was recorded as a magnitude 7.9 earthquake of unprecedented nature that also brought about fires, a tsunami, and mudslides. Approximately 105,000 people were either killed or went missing.

Events looking back at the disaster and memorial services were held, in addition to featured issues and programmes in newspapers, tv, and other forms of media. In the midst of this, the rotating exhibit ""100 Years Since the Great Kanto Earthquake Onko Bishin~ Visiting the Past and Preparing for the Future"" is being held at the Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza attached to the headquarters of the Japanese Red Cross. We visited this exhibit that has valuable documents and videos looking back at the Great Kanto Earthquake.

First, let's learn a little about the Japanese Red Cross at the permanent exhibit

The Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza, where you can learn about the history of Red Cross and the Japanese Red Cross, in addition to their activities, is located on the first floor of the headquarters of the Japanese Red Cross in Shibadaimon, Minato-ku, Tokyo. It is around a 3-minute walk from Onarimon Station on the Toei Mita Line on the subway. You can also access it on foot from Daimon Station on the Toei Asakusa Line, Toei Oedo Line, or JR Hamamatsu and Shimbashi stations.

At the entrance of the first floor of the headquarters of the Japanese Red Cross, there is a model of the old building of the Japanese Red Cross exhibited in addition to the rotating exhibit panels. The old building, which was built in 1912 and stood in the same Shibadaimon area of Minato-ku as the current building, was almost completely burned down in the fires that followed the Great Kanto Earthquake. It was designed by Tsumaki Yorinaga, one of the so-called three legendary architects of Meiji-era Japan.

The entrance to the Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza will come into view as you proceed to the back of the first floor. Anyone may view the plaza, but reservations must be made in advance. Please see the Japanese Red Cross website for details and reservations.

We had Tomoko Onishi, the lady in charge of PR for the Japanese Red Cross show us around the Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza. "Originally, this was a small book room just for employees that was remodeled into an exhibit that doubled up as a deposit for documents, then eventually became the Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza of today in 2003. In the old building, that was built in 1912, there was apparently an attached museum that informed people about the history of Red Cross" - Ms. Onishi

The Japanese Red Cross was formed in 1899 from its predecessor philanthropic society, Hakuaisha, that was established by Meiji-era politician, Sano Tsunetami, in the heat of the Satsuma Rebellion. The goal of the society was to provide humanitarian aid such as rescue and first-aid to victims of wars, conflicts, disasters. The permanent exhibit has valuable documents displayed that teach you about the history of Red Cross and the Japanese Red Cross such as the this. "Please have a look at the records of our ancestors that have worked to rescue lives for over 100 years" - Ms. Onishi

The Japanese Red Cross hospital ship, Hakuaimaru, displayed in the center, it 1/48th scale. Together with fellow hospital ship, Kosaimaru, it carried aid personnel and patients in need of first aid both during the 1900 Boxer Rebellion (North China Incident) and during the 1904-05 Russo-Japanese War.

The Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza is not only visited by the general public, but also by Japanese Red Cross volunteers nationwide, donators that support the Japanese Red Cross' activities, and other related personnel. There have also been interesting incidents such as the following. "When the "Disasters in the Heisei Era Exhibit" was held, it was visited and viewed by the current Majesties the Emperor and Empress and Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of the time, which was a simple unforgettable experience for all the employees involved" - Ms. Onishi

The rotating exhibit provides a comprehensive introduction to the Great Kanto Earthquake

At the Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza, rotating exhibits are regularly held with the current exhibit, ""100 Years Since the Great Kanto Earthquake Onko Bishin~ Visiting the Past and Preparing for the Future"", being held until March 2024.
Over 560,000 people were rescued by the Japanese Red Cross during the Great Kanto Earthquake, and over 2 million in total to date. You can learn about the reason why they were able to save so many people in chronological order.

The Japanese Red Cross moved to act immediately when the Great Kanto Earthquake struck on 1st September 1923 at 11:58am. That evening, rescue tents that stretched over 330㎡ were set up in the Imperial Palace Plaza to provide relief to victims.

In addition to easy-to-understand panels and photos, you will also find a journal published a month after the disaster, Hakuai, relief supplies sent from the United States, such as whiskey, and valuable items and documents on display that give you an idea of life at the time.

The Japanese Red Cross conducted a wide range of activities during the Great Kanto Earthquake, not only restricted to providing aid to the injured, but also dispatching staff to support and relief squads from branches across the country, setting up first-aid stations around Japan, preventing the spread of infectious diseases, mobile medical services, and the protection of pregnant women and infants. At the rotating exhibit, in addition to the actual exhibition, you will find paper documents and images of the time to teach you about the activities of the Japanese Red Cross. "As it happened 100 years ago, no staff were alive to experience the Great Kanto Earthquake. We worked to set up this rotating exhibit as we also wanted to learn about the relief activities that were carried out by the Japanese Red Cross at the time" - Ms. Onishi

The rotating exhibit also features information on the Japanese Red Cross' activities during the Haiti Earthquake and the Great East Japan Earthquake, as well tools and items used during recent relief activities. You can feel that the desire of the Japanese Red Cross to continue to evolve and save even more people through its experiences of multiple disasters to date. "Looking back at the past, you wonder what you can do today, or even tomorrow. What's important is learning from past disasters and preparing for potential future ones. In order to save even one more person, we are spreading the word on the importance of disaster prevention through rotating exhibits such as this" - Ms. Onishi

In addition, next to the Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza, you will find a merchandise shop with items perfect to commemorate your visit. Plush toys and plastic file folders of the mascot character, Heartora, are particularly popular. You can also find a disaster prevention kit that will come in handy if something were to happen.

Learning about the Great Kanto Earthquake and the activities of the Japanese Red Cross provide us with an opportunity to think about disaster prevention. If you have the chance, why not visit the Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza and think about what you can do in terms of disaster prevention, too?
<Japanese Red Cross Information Plaza>
1-1-3 Shibadaimon, Minato-ku, Tokyo
https://www.jrc.or.jp/about/plaza/
Opening times: Tue, Wed, Thur 10:00~12:30, 13:30~16:30
Closed: Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon, national holidays, end of year and new year holidays, anniversary of foundation (1st May)
Reservations: Advance reservation required (03-3437-7580)
Cost: Free
Exhibit Visits: Max 20 people, up to 30 mins (*exhibit explanations from staff are no longer conducted)
Document Viewing: Max 2 people

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