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Tokyo Set to Build Underground Shelter in Event of Missile Attack

The Yomiuri Shimbun

The Tokyo metropolitan government intends to construct an underground shelter in which residents can stay for a fixed period in the event of a missile attack by a foreign nation, The Yomiuri Shimbun has learned.

The Tokyo government will start building the first such shelter within the precincts of the Toei Oedo subway line’s Azabu-juban Station in Minato Ward next fiscal year. The metropolitan government is also searching for an additional candidate shelter site and is considering underground parking lots.

Based on the Civil Protection Law, prefectural governments designate emergency temporary evacuation facilities at which residents can seek shelter from the blast created by a missile, as well as in other situations. According to the Cabinet Secretariat, about 56,000 such sites, such as schools and public facilities, had been designated nationwide as of April 2023. These facilities are intended to help people in the vicinity take shelter and escape danger. However, there are concerns that such facilities might be unable to ensure the safety of those inside if a missile attack is prolonged or becomes increasingly more intense.

According to metropolitan government sources, the underground shelter would be a facility at which residents could take refuge if a protracted attack makes being aboveground dangerous. The facility would be equipped with food, water, ventilation equipment, emergency power sources, communication devices and other essential items that would enable people to stay for a long period.

The metropolitan government plans to start drawing up a design that converts an emergency supplies warehouse within Azabu-juban Station into the new underground emergency shelter. Research costs for the project will be included in the initial draft budget for the next fiscal year. The shelter is expected to be completed in a few years.

However, maintenance costs for such a shelter will run into hundreds of millions of yen, so constructing such facilities across the whole of Tokyo will be difficult. As a result, the metropolitan government hopes the private sector will take a larger role in providing such emergency facilities, such as by constructing buildings with underground spaces that could be converted into shelters.

Underground shelters have been built widely overseas. Many residents in conflict areas such as Ukraine and the Palestinian territory of Gaza use these facilities to take shelter from the fighting. The Japanese government also plans to push ahead with the construction of shelters as part of preparations for North Korea’s repeated missile launches and a possible contingency involving Taiwan. The government will decide on design specifications and other details during this fiscal year ending in March.

The government will also provide financial assistance to municipalities that build such shelters.