28 March 2006
by Akino Yoshihara
Staying informed during a disaster can be a matter of life and death. Unfortunately, for foreign residents with limited Japanese proficiency can sometimes feel left out of the loop. To address this situation, 79.7 MHz Kyoto Sanjo Radio Cafe, a nonprofit community radio station in Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto, launched a program with help from international student volunteers.
On Mondays at 3 p.m., the radio station airs a 15-minute program called "FM-MyDo," hosted in turn by a panel of three per show from about 20 volunteers from 11 countries, including Canada, Iran, Peru, Russia and Japan.
The program introduces listeners to people from different cultural , but more importantly it also provides training in radio production and broadcasting techniques to non-Japanese so that they can accurately transmit information in emergencies.
In the wake of frequent reports about non-Japanese who could understand vital disaster information, the program's producer, Tetsuo Matsuura, felt that such a program would help foreigners cope with the hardships they faced, so he presented the idea to the Kyoto Prefectural International Center in February.
Matsuura said he realized how frightening being uninformed could be from his experience studying TV production at a community college in Canada. He recalled the embarrassing experience of opening an emergency exit door, causing an alarm to ring throughout the school building, and mistaking a disaster drill for an actual disaster.
"You miss out on a lot of valuable information if you don't chat [with friends] before class or at lunchtime or don't understand the conversations you're in," he said.