Family option: low-rise housing

By on May 15, 2011

It was so unfortunate how the major earthquake rocked buildings in Japan at 2:46 pm on March 11, 2011 sending people to panic including foreign residents who were new to the same level of intensity. According to foreign building engineers who closely monitored the historical event in Japan through videos voluntarily shared by people on YouTube and various blog sites as the shaking happened, Tokyo’s high-rise buildings swayed as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) back and forth. That’s enough to scare people away especially those living in high-rise buildings.

Nancy, a full-time housewife lived on the 35th floor of a high-rise building with her family. After putting her baby in the stroller, she was all set to go out the door of her apartment to pick up 5-year old daughter at school when the big one hit. Her husband was on a business trip in Seoul and was not due to come back to Tokyo until the following day. “Never have I felt so scared in my entire life! When all the shaking gradually intensified, I left the baby stroller behind, carried my baby and stormed out of the apartment in panic. I headed to the stairway as fast as I could to get my daughter in school”, she recalls. “The elevator was shut down automatically and it had been a big pain to go down the stairs with a baby on one hand and a bag on the other. Although I did not time my foot travel, it must have taken me anywhere between 8-10 minutes to finally reach the basement floor to get to the car,“ she narrated. “Had the building collapsed while I was running down the stairs, it could have been impossible to survive,” she added.

Tasnoova who lives on the 45th floor of a building in central Tokyo remarked, “We get earthquake alerts from the emergency center of our building 20-30 seconds before. I just got back home when the alert went on at around 2:45 pm. As always, I did not bother as I had gotten used to it already and continued what I was doing. Wow… the shaking started and won’t stop! Oh, it was getting stronger and our building was shaking terribly.   What is happening to the world? Should I stay up or go down? The emergency center was making announcements continuously, advising us to calm down and keep waiting somewhere safe until the earthquake stopped.  I watched my stuff fall down and broke into pieces. I couldn’t sit idle. While the tremor was going on, I attempted to put things like photo frames, art pieces and standing lamps down the floor. That was not a wise thing to do though during an earthquake. For a while, it stopped. I thanked God. I tried calling my husband and friends living in Japan  using my cell phone and landline but could not connect. I got scared even more.”

Asked about their personal earthquake experience, a foreign couple who lives on the 26th floor of a tower building near the Tokyo Bay area said, “We were at home and felt the building shake violently. Our son, age 11, and daughter 14 were in school. A lot of things came to mind like fire, the building collapsing, tsunami threat as we were near the bay, and our children’s safety etc. Convulsing uncontrollably, we locked up the apartment and took the stairs where we met other building tenants who were also running out for safety. It took a while for us to reach the ground floor because there were too many people using the stairs. There were 2 exits but most tenants used the one we took which slowed foot traffic down”.

The buildings creaked, window glasses vibrated as the ground shuddered yet most buildings in Tokyo came out with minimal to no damage. However, from what most of the foreign families living in high-rise buildings have experienced, the time it takes to escape to open grounds during an earthquake of such massive scale is threatening. One embassy in Tokyo has issued a circular to its nationals to exercise extreme caution during a similar earthquake and reassured them that, according to Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, buildings constructed after 1981 are built on a strong foundation resilient to a quake with a scale of JMA 5 up.  According to experts in Japan, the anti-seismic building standards that came into effect in 1981 was regulated to withstand JMA seismic intensity scale of 5. The new Anti-Seismic Design standard was later revised on June 1st, 1981, followed again in 1995, by a Promotion of Renovation for Earthquake-Resistant Structures Act, redesigning and enhancing standards to reinforce earthquake resistance level up to the maximum JMA scale 7.  Japan uses “Shindo” to measure intensity scale which is different from the Richter Magnitude scale.

In an earthquake prone country like Japan, panic-stricken families especially with small children will benefit largely from living in low-rise, low density housing. For many years now, this type of housing has been the preference of many foreign expatriates in Tokyo.  Homat Homes offer what most families need in a low-rise apartment. The rooms are spacious, comfortable, walking distance to embassies, open spaces like parks, churches, hospitals, supermarkets, police and far from the bay area in case of a tsunami threat. The convenient proximity of Homat properties to international schools make it easy for parents to pick up their small children on foot in the event trains and public land transports are suspended following a disaster. All Homat properties are family and party.friendly. Each unit has a huge pantry, spacious compartments, well appointed living and dining rooms,  and bedrooms.  Tenants are provided with heavy-duty GE Electrical appliances, the use of a concierge and parking.  Choosing a Homat property is living in a foreigner-friendly environment.

For those opting for an agreeable low-rise living accommodation in Tokyo, visit

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