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Japanese researchers to teach safety to Indonesian children near 'Java Fuji' volcano

Mount Merapi, also called the Mount Fuji of Java. (Photo courtesy of Mount Fuji Research Institute, Yamanashi Prefectural Government)

Researchers at a Mount Fuji research institute are to begin teaching disaster-prevention classes this April at elementary schools on the island of Java in Indonesia, near the active volcano Mount Merapi.

    Mount Merapi is one of the most active volcanoes in Indonesia. Over 300 people died in a 2010 eruption of the volcano. With a large population living near it and many tourists, the resemblance to Mount Fuji has led Japanese travelers to refer to it as "Java Fuji."

    Following a tourism PR visit to Indonesia by the then Yamanashi Prefecture governor, the Mount Fuji Research Institute in 2014 established an agreement with the Indonesian Gadjah Mada University for joint research on volcanic disaster prevention. The institute had received a request from Gadjah Mada University to help in teaching scientifically-based evacuation knowledge.

    The institute is already teaching classes at elementary schools within Yamanashi Prefecture based on its research of Mount Fuji, instructing on things such as how to evacuate in the event of an eruption.

    Chief researcher Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto holds a washcloth sent from people at Gadjah Mada University. (Mainichi)

    It will be the first time for the institute to teach classes overseas. Researchers will teach at nine elementary schools in two districts of the Special Region of Yogyakarta. Also participating in teaching the classes will be Tokyo-based NPO Volcano and professors from Gadjah Mada University, for a total of around 15 people. Among the topics of the classes will be the history of Mount Merapi and how volcanic eruptions occur.

    The plan is to teach the classes with easy-to-understand examples, like running experiments with shaken-up carbonated drinks to imitate eruptions, or using a three dimensional model to show evacuation routes. There are hopes that teaching the children will lead to a spread of disaster-prevention awareness throughout the children's families and the wider community.

    The institute's chief researcher Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto says, "When an eruption occurs, knowledge determines whether people survive or not. We want to spread in Indonesia the idea that knowledge is the easiest form of disaster prevention. It will also be a chance to see how much disaster-prevention education raises awareness, which matters to us as a prefecture hosting Mount Fuji."

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