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The Sunday Fire Adventure
Sunday, 9th July

I woke up this morning to the sound of a crazed Japanese lady yelling over the internal PA system. She probably wasn`t crazy, but everything sounds shrill and annoying at that hour.
I got up and put on a crusty pair of shorts over an even crustier pair of boxers. I looked out the window. Overcast. Nice.
Why was I up at this hour?
Earlier in the week, we were told of a fire drill. 6:30am this Sunday it was to be. Why they chose that most unGodly hour, or `arsehole hour` as I like to call it, is beyond me.
After shuffling on a pair of slippers I waddled my way downstairs.

I walked outside and looked for some familiar faces. I saw Yuuki-san across the parking lot. She motioned me towards the vacant lot across the road, where I was corralled into a group similiarly groggy dorm mates. Among them were some senior citizens - no-one, besides a young family and their two kids, under the age of 50. It seemed all the residents of Funabacho 4 were invited to take part in this fire drill - and they`re all either students or retirees.
A kind man, about 60, gave us all a plastic bag. Inside was a pair of gloves and a small towel. Their use was not immediately apparent, but they proved a fun prop for a few minutes.

When I read `fire drill` on that Post-it note, I though of the standard Australian fire drill, wherein you hear an alarm, gather outside, take a roll, act bored for a bit, then go back inside and get on with your boring existence.
That`s not how things are done in this neck of the woods.
This was a drill in the sense of an army drill - we were there to learn the basics of fire safety.

Five Fukushima City Fire officers were there to aquaint us with what to do in case of a fire. Unfortunately they weren`t in the full, silver firefighting outfits with Samurai-inspired headgear (see image). Instead, they were wearing pretty conservative pants and dark blue T-shirts. We were lucky to get suspenders I suppose, but they could tell we all wanted more. An elderly gent, who I assume is on the Funabacho commitee for something or other (and a bunch of other commitees) also helped. He took himself quite seriously, but obviously out of concern for his fellow neighbours - be they old Japanese ladies or crustily panted young men from Australia. Quite a gent.

The first drill was putting out a small fire in a barrel using a fire extinguisher. It`s not too hard to do, but there are some very important steps you must remember:

1. Hold the extinguisher upright, holding the handle with your stronger hand.
2. Remove the pin
3. Point the nozzle at the base of the fire
4. Yell "There`s a fire!" (Kojida! Kojida!) and proceed to douse flames by applying pressure to the lever
5. Profit

I played up the silly foreigner act quite well and yelled the very similiar sounding words for "Godzilla! Godzilla!" and won solid praise and accolades from everyone there. I employed the extinguisher with an accuracy as if it were an appendage, and doused the flames with grace and authority. They never stood a chance.

After that we had to crawl through a tent that was filled with smoke. Sort of like Zone 3, but much thicker. One of the young kids was keen to do it, but took one look at the smoke, shat his pants then ran to his mum. We didnt have that option, so we put our towels to our face (that`s what they were for!) and ran through without incident.

We gathered for one last lecture about fire alarms, then retired back to our rooms. On the way, we were each given a small drink as a token of appreciation, or involvement... or something, I`m not sure why we got a free drink actually, but I`m not too proud to turn down a free, fun-size can of Coke.

Safe in the knowledge that I`m not going to burn to death in a house fire any time soon, I crawled into bed and slept soundly for a solid five hours.

The End.

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Images (most of them anyway) and words Matthew Strain 2006.
Additional translation by Shitagi Dorobo