Getting ready, staying ready inside Kyoto’s Disaster Prevention Center

Try your hand at flying the emergency helicopter over Kyoto City in a virtual simulator.
Try your hand at flying the emergency helicopter over Kyoto City in a virtual simulator.

Getting ready, staying ready inside Kyoto’s Disaster Prevention Center

by Hazel Gray
Stripes Japan

Have you ever wanted to experience the thrill of fighting fires? Or practice escaping a burning building? Or how to respond to an earthquake in a terrifyingly accurate simulation?

At the Kyoto City Disaster Prevention Center, you can learn how to manage these common emergency situations and more. The center is only a half hour’s-walk from Kyoto Station and the best part is that the entire experience is free!

Check out hands-on learning exhibits and simulations including learning how to escape a building on fire, learning how to use a fire extinguisher, knowing what to do when you are stuck in a flooding underpass, experiencing a violent earthquake, flying an emergency helicopter on a rescue mission, and so much more! Reservations are required for the guided program, but some of the attractions can be experienced without one.

Learn how to use a fire extinguisher with the fire simulator at the Disaster Prevention Center in Kyoto.

Our experience was unique because, not knowing that reservations were required for the guided program, we did not have them when we entered. The staff were very kind, allowing us to enjoy some of the exhibits without reservations. We were led first to a room upstairs where we learned how to escape from a burning building.

We watched a video of a hotel catching fire through an elevator malfunction and saw different people’s responses to it. All of them tried to get out, but only a few knew how to do it safely. They crawled down on the ground to avoid the toxic smoke, then quickly and carefully followed the emergency exit signs to evacuate the building. Then, in groups of two, we got to simulate this experience by running through a hot, smoky maze with doors and exit signs. We had one minute to get through. Ready, set, GO! Thankfully, we all survived.

Visitors to the museum can get fun photos posting as firemen and more.

The staff immediately conducted us to the next room, where we learned how to use a fire extinguisher. There are three general kinds, but all can be used in a similar way. The standard method is a quick three-step process: Step 1, remove the yellow safety tab on the top; Step 2, remove the hose nozzle on the side and aim it at the flames; Step 3, squeeze the trigger! It is important to spray the base of the fire first until it is completely extinguished. Then move on to the lesser parts and the flammable objects that might cause an explosion.

After learning how to correctly use an extinguisher, we were all able to practice using one that sprayed water on a virtual fire. We successfully fought the house fire on our own! Of course, some fires are too big for us to handle, and we need to call 911 (or 119 in Japan) so they can take care of it.

Upstairs on the third floor was an open space with many standalone exhibits we could try. We fought fires on an American arcade game, we experienced opening a car door in different levels of water to simulate escaping from a flooding underpass, we even flew an emergency helicopter on different rescue missions! There is little English on the exhibits, but the staff were on-hand to explain. We spent about two hours at the center, more than half of which was spent in the third-floor free area.

A video game at the center allows visitors to practice aiming a "firehose" to extenguisha  virtual fire.

In the U.S., September is National Preparedness Month, so make plans to visit Disaster Prevention Center and learn some important safety tips on your next trip to Kyoto!

Visit the center

Address: 7 Sugata-cho, Nishikujo, Minami-ku, Kyoto 601-8445, Japan

Telephone: 075-662-1849 (Reservations by phone; Parties of 10 or more can reserve three months in advance)

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last guided program reception 1600) Closed on Mondays (except national holidays and Sept 1. In this event, closed on Tuesday); Closed on second Tuesday of each month except national holidays; Closed Dec 28-Jan 4 for New Years


Admission: free

Directions: 30-minute walk from Kyoto Station

18-minute walk from Jujo Subway Station

8-minute walk from Kintetsu Railway Jujo Station

Shimin Bosai Center Mae (Kyoto City Bus stop #16, 19, 42)

Other important information:

Parking lot available, but limited space (10 parking spaces)

Several parking lots nearby, but those may have a parking fee

A brochure details the Disaster Prevention Center floor map.

A brochure details the experiences available at the Disaster Prevention Center.


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