Japan Prepares for North Korean Missile Strikes With Disaster Drills

[GIF: BBC]

With North Korea continuing to fire ballistic missiles into the Sea of Japan, rural Japanese towns have been carrying out emergency disaster drills.

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North Korea has been doing this for a while now, but these launches have spiked under Kim Jong-un.

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Living here, it’s been surreal to watch and listen to news reports tracking the missiles in real time.

Earlier this year, a North Korean test missile landed approximately 124 miles from the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, making it the closest a North Korean missile had come to striking Japanese land.

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With North Korean conducting more and more missile tests, there is obvious concern that one will hit Japan. Maybe accidentally.

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The guidelines are for “ballistic missiles” (弾道ミサイル or dandou misairu) and tell people who are outside to get into a sturdy structure or get underground. They also tell people to protect their heads and move away from windows.

I haven’t seen similar guidelines in Osaka (yet), where I live, nor have there been any ballistic missile disaster drills. Also, none of my children’s schools have held these types of drills. They have, however, held the standard earthquake and fire ones.

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[Image: ANNnewsCH]
[Image: ANNnewsCH]

The first ballistic missile disaster drills began in Akita Prefecture this past January. Akita Prefecture borders the Sea of Japan, so there is a possibility that it could be hit by a North Korean test missile.

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In Japanese, disaster drills are called “hinan kunren” (避難訓練) and unless they’re at school or work, they’re typically optional. For example, your apartment building or neighborhood in Japan might have one, but not everyone participates because they might have work or other plans. However, when Japanese people think of “hinan kunren,” they usually think of earthquake drills and not ballistic missile ones.

[GIF: KyotoNews]
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This was a ballistic missile disaster drill in early June in Yamagata Prefecture, which also faces the Sea of Japan. As the BBC points out, these disaster drills have been happening more and more in areas on the Sea of Japan.

[GIF: NNN]
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Such as in Yamaguchi Prefecture.

The first missile disaster drill held in the Kanto region was held in Ibaraki Prefecture late last month.

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[GIF: ANNnewsCH]

One hundred people gathered in this gym for a disaster drill, while another 200 people took part in one in Onojo City, Fukuoka Prefecture.

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Oita City also held a ballistic missile disaster drill in July, which will might remind you of the 1950's American “duck and cover” drills.

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Not everyone is convinced that such measures will help.

[GIF: BBC]
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Perhaps for good reason.


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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DISCUSSION

Serious question for you, Ashcraft:

The drills are obviously an indication that the Japanese government is taking the threat of a potential North Korean missile attack seriously—but just how seriously do you think they (or the average person in Japan) expect such a thing to happen?

I ask because here in the US, we largely have the luxury of saying, “Oh, well, if shit pops off, it’s going to happen over there, not here,” because despite the fact that the North Korean regime evidently possesses ICBMs capable of hitting the US mainland, their ability to mount a nuclear warhead to one and have it hit a target with any degree of accuracy is in serious doubt.

So far removed from the direct cost of any such conflict, we here in the US are able to think of the whole thing in hypothetical terms, rather than planning for the possibility of having our homes and lives destroyed.

I’ve been following the political kerfuffle surrounding NK since the mid-90s, and it seems to me that up until recently we’ve mostly engaged in brinksmanship that never really goes anywhere—like two kids talking shit on the playground who don’t really want to fight, but who want to put on a good show of looking like they want to fight.

Now, however, things feel a little different—like things might actually go sideways relatively swiftly. I’m wondering if folks in Japan feel the same way, or if there’s a prevailing attitude of, “Eh. It’s North Korea. Let ‘em wiggle their dick a bit; they’re not going to do anything.”