Japan takes Code Red drills to the extreme

I remember during my school days in the United States, we would have a “Code Red” drill once a year where we practiced the proper protocol in the event a gunman came to school. We were taught the proper way to build a barricade using desks and chairs in our classroom, the best place to build it, and the different announcements and signals that we could expect to hear should such a situation occur. But the thing is, there was never an actual gunman or anyone playing the part of a gunman during the drill.

In Japan (or at least in my area of Japan), they do Code Red drills a little differently. First of all, in the Code Red drill scenario, there is no fictitious gunman, instead there is a fictitious crazy person trying to stab people. Since gun control laws are very strict in Japan, it’s hard for the common psychopath to get his hands on one. So when people in Japan start to go on a rampage, they usually use a knife or other pointy object.

Okay, so far, so good. Just substitute “fictitious gunman” with “fictitious knife…man” and you’ve got yourself a Code Red drill like back in the States. Sorry, there’s a little more to it than that because during a Code Red drill in Japan, there is an actual man playing the part of a psychopath who goes around the school actually trying to stab the teachers and students.

Here is a conversation I had with the English teacher at school in English:

English teacher: Just so you know, a crazy man is coming to school today and he’s going to try to stab us.

Me: Uh…

English Teacher: You can stay and fight him if you want, but you’re going to miss your bus.

Me: Uh…

Neglecting to fill me in on the context this situation was occurring, my coworker nonchalantly informed me of a planned attack by an unknown assailant (Thanks buddy. I could have used a little background information). During a Code Red drill in Japan, the fake attacker is an actual police officer, dressed to look similar to one of the yakuza (Japanese mafia). There is an announcement over the intercom, informing the students to barricade the doors as the fake yakuza man slips into the school. The intruder then proceeds to try and break through the barricades to get to the children and homeroom teacher inside each of the classrooms until the remaining teachers are able to subdue him.

Its intended use is simple: run at the intended target and sandwich him between a wall and the rounded part of the tool. My first thought when I saw this pole was, “that would never work if the guy had a gun.”

I haven’t had the opportunity to participate in one of these “stabber runs amuck on campus” drills myself (damn!), but I’ve been asking around and collecting stories from other teachers. Here are a few:

- The homeroom teacher who was barricaded in with the students began verbally berating the intruder when he tried to break down the wall of desks to get into the classroom.

- The social studies teacher, who has practiced kendo (Japanese sword fighting) for many years, kendo chopped the assailant in the head with a wooden rod, stunning him. The PE teacher (and wrestling coach), who is twice the size of a normal Japanese man, then came in and tackled the guy to the ground, rendering him immobile.

- The girls in the second grade classroom were so scared when the intruder tried to get into their classroom that they started crying.

- Three of the male teachers each respectively grabbed a wooden pole, a chair, and a metal rod and began running at the intruder. Fearing for his life, the intruder fled.

- The English teacher who I teach classes with was sad that he had to stay in the teacher’s room to man the intercom and didn’t get a chance to fight the intruder.

And remember, this “intruder” is an actual police officer.

You would think the Code Red drill would be like a pantomime of what should happen if an attacker came onto the school campus. No powerful blows would be dealt and everyone goes home happy without any bumps or bruises. But teachers go all out, kicking the crap out of the poor police officer. Maybe this is a way for teachers to relieve stress.

Using this same logic, fire drills would include real fires, someone would actually have to drown during a CPR class, and some kind of machine would have to be invented to shake a building during an earthquake drill.

I love you, Japan, but sometimes you’re a little too extreme for me.

Michelle is originally from California, but currently living in the tiny fishing village of Chibu, one of the Oki islands in Japan. 

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  • 1

    Meguroman

    Good, that seems fairly realistic. Not sure why the guy would be dressed to resemble a yakuza member. Professional criminals would be unlikely knife-wielding wackos in a school attack, granted that is not a key point. When I was a JET many years ago in inaka and now in my son`s elementary school here in Tokyo the fire drills were and are pre-announced to everyone days ahead of time and while not totally worthless, they could be more effective as a learning tool if they were a surprise.

  • 0

    Jason Ring

    Japan .. How I miss you so! This is a great article and is another reason why I love Nihongo!

  • 0

    kimuzukashiiiii

    I think it is excellent.

    It means that if this should ever happen (god forbid) everyone knows exactly where they are supposed to be and what they are supposed to be doing, no one running around like a headless chicken. Although agreed that a sporadic drill (within the course of a day or week) would be good also.

    Using this same logic, fire drills would include real fires, someone would actually have to drown during a CPR class, and some kind of machine would have to be invented to shake a building during an earthquake drill.

    This comment is ridiculous though. And in fair play, most schools in Japan will get at least one REAL earthquake drill during the course of a school year, which is the biggest threat in Japan anyways.

    However, I have seen schools and kindergartens where real fires are actually extinguished (obviously this service is supplied by the fire department) in teaching teachers how to use extinguishers correctly. And do kids in this country even get CPR training? I dunno but, In my CPR and AED training (again supplied by the local ambulance service) we did a simulation on a life sized doll, which gave feedback after.

  • 0

    Frungy

    ... does the police officer get danger pay? I mean seriously, I just glanced around my office and I can count at least two dozen objects that could cause permanent damage to anyone idiotic enough to attack me in my office. Schools are even worse, where I've seen teachers carrying around 1 meter long metal rulers that could probably quite easily cleave flesh. Plus all the AED packs and fire extinguishers on the walls that could be weaponised in a pinch. For my money though the good old-fashioned fire hose is my personal favourite. Whether the person is armed with a gun or a knife it's hard to do anything when being hit with about 20 bars of pressure (for comparison a riot water cannon is 30 bars).

    You'd have to be deranged to attack a school with just a knife, it would be suicide.

  • 1

    cleo

    It isn't only schools, and it isn't only crazy men with pointy things.

    What if a rhino escapes from the zoo?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PgHQfxT7ImI

    or a scary polar bear?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=645QSzGJfqs

    or a vicious tiger?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu1q4ULk_Ls

  • -2

    Nessie

    During a Code Red drill in Japan, the fake attacker is an actual police officer, dressed to look similar to one of the yakuza (Japanese mafia).

    Are they trying to muscle in on the bento racket? I thought they already had that sewn up.

  • 1

    Fadamor

    Building barricades? I've worked in a public school system since before the Columbine shootings and the drill involves NO barricades. A "Code Red" (or "Code A" in our case) involves doors closed (all doors are locked by default throughout the day), lights off, and kids moved to a portion of the room where they can't be seen by someone looking into the room through the door window. Silence is mandatory. The noise of moving desks to build a barricade is the worst thing you could do. Administrators randomly check doors to make sure they're locked, and peek through windows to see if they can tell whether there's someone in there or not.

    The closest thing to a "live" drill happens during the Summer when the kids are out of school. Then, the city police department runs a "live" drill for their SWAT teams to get familiar with the layout of the high school and give their four-person teams the experience of how long it would take to completely sweep the school in search of a shooter. They do this with full SWAT gear - including guns out, and each team fronted by a Kevlar shield. We get warned ahead of time when they're going to do this, and the only change to our routine is that we're told to obey any commands they issue to us in the hall - not because we're in danger, but because it gives them good practice at giving clear and concise commands to civilians. If they tell us to do something we're unsure about, that's the time to figure out a better way to say it than in a real situation.

  • 0

    Probie

    During a Code Red drill in Japan, the fake attacker is an actual police officer, dressed to look similar to one of the yakuza (Japanese mafia).

    Yeah, because it's always yakuza who run about schools trying to stab kids...

    I guess there's no uniform for "loser a**hole" though.

  • 1

    zenkan

    Lots of good points here. In particular, the idea of practicing instructions and code words for various situations is a good idea. As far as I know, there is no such system in place at my institution. There is a regular fire drill and the earthquake evacuation route is in every room, but not everyone is there all the time, so I haven't taken part in one for a couple of years. By the way, there's nothing wrong with a "realistic" approach - it's a hell of a lot better than just going through the motions like some emergency drills seem to do.

  • 1

    Jack Stern

    Excuse me but I find a yakuza going to a school to do in students or teachers a little absurd. If anything, it would be a regular deranged person. Just in case, a drill to acquaint students with the possibility of this happening deserves some attention by schools.

  • 0

    David43515

    As an English teacher myself I find this approach kind of refreshing. Back in the States I also practiced martial arts for 30+ years and often helped my teachers train local police and occasionally military units who were looking for outside instruction. This kind of hands on experience is especially useful in creating a reactive mind-set. Those curved metal poles can generate a lot of leverage when used correctly, but unless you get to try it once or twice you're not going to be able to pin someone to a wall or floor. I WAS surprised to hear they advocate beating the LEO with real objects, but different strokes for different folks.

  • 0

    megosaa

    we had a 不審者 in our school 4 years ago. surprisingly, it was a middle aged lady with a chopping knife. she was fast and because of the area of the school, there's many blind spots. school was closed after 3rd period, us ladies have to escort the kids to their homes while the male staffs patrolled around the school ground looking for her.

    she was found later running out the school ground as the 給食guys were about to enter. and so yea, i approve of these drills (避難訓練). it's not every day you get to poke some guy with a long stick :-)

  • 0

    Takuma7

    We had three types drills when is was in school. Fire, earthquake, and one called duck and cover "for personal protection against the effects of a nuclear explosion". Never had the knife or gun drills.

    Here is a link about the duck and cover.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duckandcover

  • 0

    Takuma7

    We had three types drills when is was in school. Fire, earthquake, and one called duck and cover "for personal protection against the effects of a nuclear explosion". Never had the knife or gun drills.

  • 0

    Cos

    You'd have to be deranged to attack a school with just a knife, it would be suicide.

    Death penalty if they catch you and you can't convinced enough that you are deranged : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Osaka_school_massacre

  • 0

    Yubaru

    This is a great article and is another reason why I love Nihongo!

    But the article is in English?

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