Tokyo Implements Creative Tech Solutions for Disaster Preparedness

Because of its location, Japan is prone to experiencing a variety of natural disasters that include tsunamis and earthquakes. The city of Tokyo is building disaster prevention parks equipped with emergency services and capabilities that use AI, IoT, and solar technologies to meet the needs of citizens following catastrophic events.


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Image credit: Tokyo Gov on Twitter: Kamado Bench that converts to a stove in an emergency.  

Japan has experienced more than its share of natural disasters. Over the past 100 years alone, the island nation and its environs have been hit by a series of earthquakes, typhoons, tidal surges, and tsunamis that collectively resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths. In September 1923, the island nation was rocked by the Great Kanto earthquake and tsunami, the deadliest disaster in Japan’s history, resulting in more than 105,000 deaths.

The archipelago is sited along the Ring of Fire, where several tectonic plates meet, making it vulnerable to volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and earthquakes. In addition, there are more than 100 volcanoes on the archipelago, including Sakurajima, which is the most active volcano in Japan. In fact, according to a study by insurer Swiss Re, Japan’s Tokyo-Yokohama region is the riskiest place in the world to do business, in terms of the potential human and economic costs of a possible natural catastrophe. 

While it’s not possible to prevent these disasters, it is possible to be prepared for future events and minimize the loss of life and property. To that end, the Japanese government has been investing in technology for disaster preparedness, devoting billions of yen each year in earthquake alert systems and sensors, emergency facilities, evacuation centers, communications, and earthquake-resistant buildings. 

Japan was left reeling after the widespread devastation of the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in March 2011 that caused the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. It struggled to rebuild communities, but did so with a focus on disaster resilience. Community leaders turned to smart technologies to help monitor natural conditions, predict and alert the population to impending disastrous situations, and help provide emergency services and provisions for citizens in the aftermath of an event.

From Park to Survival Bunker

As part of the post-Tohoku restoration efforts, the city began to build disaster parks. These public green areas function as typical park environments, unless the city is experiencing or has experienced a catastrophic event.

One such park is The Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park, which converts to a survival bunker area for local citizens after disasters strike. The park has been outfitted with cleverly designed features that look and function much like typical park components, but have other purposes as well. 

Green urban park surrounded by tall buildings

Image credit: The Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park 

The Tokyo Rinkai park has solar-powered charging stations for e-bicycles and electrical appliances. The park has 36 benches that conceal stoves that can be used to cook food, boil water, or provide heat. Manhole covers can be lifted to reveal emergency toilets. The park also includes multiple storehouses that are stocked with food and water to support the community for 72 hours. 

Around the city, Tokyo has implemented artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities to process visual data from thousands of cameras located around the city. The data collected can help detect an impending dangerous event to help inform recommendations to get the public to safety before a catastrophe hits.

Automated Warning Systems and a Smart Grid

Japan set up an intelligent warning system to alert people to the significant likelihood of dangerous events. The Japanese Meteorological Agency (JMA) launched the system, which relies on technology to function. The solution involves observation systems, information gathering sensors, data analysis and decision-making aids, together with an intelligent warning system, all linked together to interoperate. 

Not only is Tokyo building smart parks, it’s also utilizing smart city technologies to monitor energy consumption. Several years ago, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which serves roughly one-third of the country’s total population, developed an ambitious plan to modernize the city’s electric grid. 

Today, TEPCO and Landis+Gyr, global provider of integrated energy management products, are collaborating to install smart meters and other devices to meet the ultimate goal of 30 million devices by 2025. In 2020, TEPCO had already installed 20 million smart meters. The project started with the deployment of an IoT network, which will connect all the devices.

Learn more about Japan’s disaster parks.

  • Read this article for details about disaster prevention parks.
  • Browse information about the Tokyo Rinkai Disaster Prevention Park.
  • Review the results of the J-Alert system for early notification of impending disasters.


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