The Kumamoto Earthquake and Tokyo Olympics Security: What You Need to Know Zacharzewski Zacharzewski

By now most people around the word who follow the daily news are aware that the Japanese island of Kyushu has been struck by a series of strong earthquakes which have caused at least 41 fatalities. The series of earthquakes began on April 14, 2016. The city of Kumamoto has been hardest hit but other cities over a large area of Kyushu have also suffered damage and seen injuries from the earthquake. Foreign security and safety officials who will work in Tokyo during 2020 Olympics can learn from the recent earthquakes in Japan how they can prepare for a possible earthquake during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Of all the countries in the world Japan is the best prepared to handle an earthquake. That is because so many earthquakes occur in Japan. Some of this preparation is detailed in an earlier post on this blog. But earthquakes are unpredictable and each one is different so foreign security and safety officials responsible for the Olympics should implement their own preparations for an earthquake during the games.

Learn the Plans Already in Place

First, foreign officials responsible for Tokyo Olympic security and safety should reach out to the organizers of the Tokyo Olympics well before the games and learn what plans are in place in the event the event is disrupted by an earthquake or series or earthquakes. The organizers of the Tokyo Olympics will have plans in place for response to an earthquake. As this article demonstrates the Japanese government is already planning for a natural disaster during the games. Foreign Olympic security and safety officials should even now contact to the Tokyo Olympic organizers and Japanese officials responsible for safety during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics to help in planning for an earthquake.

Teach Everyone Earthquake Survival Basics

Second, foreign safety and security officials at the 2020 Olympics should ensure the people for whose safety they are responsible are informed about the plans for response to an earthquake. Many foreign athletes and spectators know nothing about how to survive and earthquake and its aftermath. Effective education in earthquake survival can save lives and prevent injury.

Know How to Contact Your Olympic Team Colleagues and 

Others After an Earthquake

Third, foreign safety and security officials at the Tokyo Olympics should have a concrete plan for contact with everyone for whom they are responsible after an earthquake occurs. It is likely the Tokyo Olympic safety officials will have a procedure for confirming the location and status of Olympic participants and spectators after an earthquake. Participation in that plan would likely be the best option. Implementation of a secondary communication plan should be considered. In any event, a robust communication plan or plans should be in place and and everyone should know how to contact their colleagues after an earthquake during the Tokyo Olympics.

Secure Emergency Food and Water

Fourth, emergency supplies of food and water should be confirmed. Again, the Olympics organizers or the Japanese authorities will likely have emergency supplies of food and water arranged but foreign security and safety officials responsible for Tokyo Olympic security should be aware of those plans and their role in implementing them. The Japanese plans for food and water supply after a quake should be reviewed to ensure they will meet the needs of foreign athletes and spectators. In the first days after the earthquakes in Kumamoto the Japanese news carried reports of shortages of food and water in several locations affected by the quakes. These shortages do not show lack of quake preparation by the Japanese authorities; instead, they illustrate the inherent difficulty of responding to humanitarian needs after a serious earthquake. Foreign Olympic security and safety officials at the Tokyo Olympics should review whether or not they want to independently prepare additional emergency supplies of food and water.

Ensure Access to Communication After the Earthquake

Fifth, emergency communication should be secured. Even during the immediate aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns in 2011 surviving cell towers equipped with backup power allowed sporadic cell phone communication. Tokyo Olympic safety and security officials should determine what plans are in place for back up power, etc. for the cell phone networks serving Tokyo Olympic venues. If they seem insufficient they should ask the Tokyo Olympic organizers for more and better preparations to ensure critical cell networks continue to operate after an earthquake. On the same point, athletes and spectators should be encouraged to always carry a cell phone and a backup battery or charger while they are at the Tokyo Olympics. Cell phones can also warn of an earthquake shaking up to a minute in advance as noted in the blog post linked above and this article.

Plan Alternate Transportation 

Sixth, be ready to cope with the disruption of transportation resulting from an earthquake. According to the April 16, 2016 edition of the Japan Times, “The region’s transport network suffered considerable damage: one tunnel caved in, a highway bridge was damaged, roads were blocked by landslides and train services halted, media reported. Kumamoto airport was also closed.” As of April 16, 2016 the Japanese official broadcast network NHK reported that the Kumamoto airport was closed indefinitely, train service to and from Kumamoto and nearby areas was suspended until further notice, and most major roads to and from the areas damaged by the earthquake were closed or could handle only limited traffic. Should similar disruption occur during the Tokyo Olympics security and safety officials should have several back-up plans for transportation out of Japan.

Always Carry Emergency Cash

Seventh, everyone who travels to Japan for any reason should always carry at least Yen 15,000 in cash (approximately US $150.00) at all times. Much more than in most European countries or the U.S. Japan is a cash society. Also, an earthquake will likely disrupt electronic payment networks and credit cards, etc. could be useless for days after an earthquake. Access to some cash can make daily life after an earthquake easier and more comfortable.

Don’t Worry About Civil Disorder

The eighth and final event to prepare for actually requires no preparation at all. No one need worry that the earthquake will cause civil disturbances, looting, an increase in crime, or other types of threats to personal safety. Japan has one of the lowest rates of violent crime in the world (more on that in a future post). Furthermore, time and again the Japanese people have shown their responsibility and sense of civic duty during disasters by responding in a safe and orderly manner. The writer was in Japan during the 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdowns and he can attest that in almost all cases civil order was maintained and no one took advantage of the disaster to loot or commit other crimes. In 2003 a simple blackout in New York City led to temporary and dramatic increases in crime. This type of civil disorder is very rare in Japan.


Why Use A Drone When a Rocket Will Do?

Real Terrorists Don't Use Drones; They Use Rockets!
Real Terrorists Don’t Use Drones; They Use Rockets!

The design for the new main stadium for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has been finalized. The new stadium will replace the one used for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and will be located in the same location. Around the turn of the century the city of Tokyo opened a new subway line that has a station very close to the stadium location; this new line will facilitate travel to and from the new stadium.

The neighborhoods surrounding the Olympic stadium contains many cultural and recreational facilities open to the public. Close by are expensive shopping districts as well as many high income residential neighborhoods. The stadium neighborhood is also located near the Imperial Palace, the official residence for the Crown Prince and Princess, and the State Guesthouse for the Japanese government.

The State Guesthouse for the Japanese government is also referred to as the Akasaka Palace. It functions as a venue for international meetings and conferences and also as lodging for foreign dignitaries visiting Japan.

Foreign security and safety officials who will be responsible for security at the Tokyo Olympics may want to consider a dramatic security failure that occurred at the Akasaka Palace and not far from the location for the new Tokyo Olympic stadium.

The Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight

The security failure occurred during the 1986 G-7 Tokyo Economic Summit. The heads of the governments of the G-7 members (U.S., U.K., Italy, West Germany, France, Canada, and Japan) had gathered in Tokyo for the meeting. Just as the ceremonies to mark the opening of the summit began at the Akasaka Palace the location was attacked by a Japanese terrorist group called the Middle Core Faction. Contemporaneous news reports of the incident are here, here , here, and  here.

In brief, on May 5, 1986 the Middle Core Faction, a Japanese terrorist group, fired several homemade rockets at the Akasaka Palace where Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and the five other G-7 leaders were gathering. Luckily, the rockets sailed over the heads of some of the world leaders in attendance and landed without causing injuries or serious property damage (remarkable in such a congested neighborhood).

Although a police investigation later revealed the rockets were fired from a distance of just two miles from the Akasaka Palace the Tokyo police had no advance indication of this particular threat. The linked news reports assert the Tokyo police knew the Middle Core Faction had used similar rockets for attacks in Japan in the previous two or three months. However, the police in Tokyo did not believe the group could produce rockets capable of posing a threat to the G-7 Summit.

Japanese Government Terrorist Investigative Tools Are Limited

What went awry? In Japan the use of three types of investigative techniques (use of informants, use of undercover investigations, and use of electronic surveillance) is restricted compared to the U.S. and many other countries. It is likely the absence of these types of investigative tools allowed the Middle Core Faction to plan and execute the rocket attack without alerting the police. In the future the lack of these three investigative tools may leave Japanese law enforcement authorities dangerously uninformed about threats to the security of the Tokyo Olympics.

The Akasaka Palace is no more than two miles (as the “rocket” flies) from the location of the Tokyo Olympic Stadium. Both the Akasaka Palace and the Olympic Stadium are located in the most secure and heavily patrolled district of Tokyo which contains some imperial family residences as noted above. And yet, from this well monitored district the Middle Core Faction launched a potentially deadly attack on the leaders attending the G-7 summit. If the Akasaka Palace can be attacked then the Olympic stadium can be attacked just as easily.

What Lesson Should 2020 Tokyo Olympics Foreign Security Officials Learn From This Attack?

First, foreign security professionals responsible for the security of participants and spectators in Tokyo in 2020 should keep in mind that Olympic security authorities in Japan do not have the full range of counter-terrorism tools available to law enforcement and counter terrorism agencies in many other countries. The terrorist group that launched the 1986 G-7 rocket attacks today employs primarily peaceful tactics. However, in 1986 its existence and its use of rockets to mount attacks were well-known to Japanese law enforcement and security agencies. The fact such a notorious group was able to launch a rocket attack on THE most securely guarded event in Japan in 1986 demonstrates that foreign security professionals at the Tokyo Olympics should constantly be on guard and maintain a pro-active security stance as long as they are in Japan.

Second, radical Islamic terrorists are not the only terrorists who might present a threat to the security and safety of the Tokyo Olympics. Between today and 2020 domestic Japanese terrorist groups could form and present a threat to Tokyo Olympic Security just as the Middle Core Faction presented a threat to the 1986 G-7 Summit in Tokyo. Foreign safety and security officials responsible for Tokyo Olympic security should learn as much as they can about Japanese domestic terrorist groups before the Tokyo Olympics begin and plan security accordingly. Japanese domestic news is little reported outside of Japan so it will take an extra effort to find out if Japanese terrorist groups could present a security issue. Some sources of relevant information are: Japanese government law enforcement and domestic security agencies; Japanese and foreign security firms; Japanese and foreign journalists; members of the diplomatic corps in Tokyo; and members of the Tokyo Olympic Committee.


Tokyo Olympic Security and the Return of Lost Personal Property

Blessed Are They Who Lose Their Personal Property During the Tokyo Olympics, For They Shall Find It Again

Lost property usually does not result in life threatening consequences. Even so, most foreign security and safety officials at the Tokyo Olympics will likely respond to at least a few incidents of personal property lost by athletes and others attending the games. Happily for them, in Japan more than any other country in the world lost personal property (including large amounts of cash) is routinely recovered by its owner.

Lost, but not forever!
Lost, but not long!

Foreigners well acquainted with Japan find it entertaining to read articles in foreign publications (here, here, and here) that breathlessly describe this extraordinary and delightful part of Japanese society. One of the articles reported that one lost property center in Tokyo was trying to find the owner of a wheelchair; how do you lose a wheelchair? It’s difficult for someone who is not Japanese to fathom the reasons lost personal property in Japan is routinely returned to its rightful owner. Above all Japan is a law abiding and rule following society. Courtesy and consideration are also very important in Japanese society as is a sense of community responsibility.

One time the author lost a valuable (approximately $500) commuter train pass. He stopped at a police box at the train station where he noticed the loss and reported the it to the police. Within a week he got a post card from the regional police station which informed him his commuter train pass had been found and returned and he had 30 days to claim it. Needless to say he scampered down to the police station to claim the pass. And then there’s this news story about how workers at an industrial waste processing facility in Kyoto found Yen 23,000,000 in cash (about U.S. $210,000.00) and turned it in to the police.

Another time the author visited a scenic Japanese tourist spot with some American friends where they all ate a snack in a small restaurant before beginning a 20 minute walk up a path to a great place to take sunset pictures. Once at the photo spot one member of the group realized he had left his camera in the restaurant. He began jogging back to the restaurant and at a bend in the trail literally collided with the owner of the restaurant who was jogging in the opposite direction and bringing the forgotten camera to its owner.

Japanese Tokyo Olympics security officials will definitely establish and operate a robust lost and found system at all Olympic facilities. And when foreign visitors to the games venture to other parts of Tokyo and Japan they can rest assured that if they lose some property it is highly likely it will be returned in good condition. Once you realize you have lost some property and you are at an Olympic facility simply report the loss at the Lost and Found office that is likely to be located there. If lose an item while away from an Olympic facility report the loss at one of Japan’s many police boxes or ask for assistance from the staff at your hotel or contact any Tokyo Olympic official when you can. While you are waiting for your property to be returned you you should practice some Japanese phrases to express gratitude and appreciation. It is almost certain you will have the occasion to use them.