Japanese lawmakers had a good laugh this week during a drill to practice the use of newly introduced disaster prevention helmets that have gone viral on social media.
Video images broadcast on television and other media showed Finance Minister Taro Aso smiling after successfully donning one of the collapsible plastic helmets, and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi wore a broad grin.
"You never know when disaster will strike," Tadamori Oshima, the lower house speaker, said at the end of Tuesday’s session, wearing one of the white helmets with gray chinstraps that are reminiscent of traditional samurai headgear. "I want you always to be on alert."
The drill in parliament’s lower house was the second since the kits, stowed under members’ seats, were introduced in 2017.
Despite getting instructions on how to unfold and wear the helmets, at least one parliamentarian put his on back-to-front. Others needed a helping hand and at least one of which was put on backwards, prompting many giggles on Twitter and also concerns about whether authorities were taking the drill seriously or not.
Members of Japan's parliament try out the latest in foldable emergency helmets. pic.twitter.com/bSbqry2o9W— NHK WORLD News (@NHKWORLD_News) November 27, 2019
School disaster drills are not unusual in Japan, where earthquakes are common. A quake of magnitude 9.0 in March 2011 caused a massive tsunami that killed nearly 20,000 people and triggered the Fukushima nuclear crisis.
Some Twitter users called the lawmakers’ levity off-key.
“The Speaker (of the lower house) was talking about being on alert, but others were laughing,” said one. “Before protecting themselves, they should protect people’s lives,” complained another.
Others took a lighter view. “Mr. Aso’s and Mr. Motegi’s smiling faces are charming,” wrote one apparent fan of the cabinet ministers.
Others shared their exasperation through memes.
In a old year civilization will in Japan country use the old helmet pic.twitter.com/Ylno2xZS0j— Thamaraikannan (@Thamara26993664) November 25, 2019
Japan just invented another high level emergency tool kit: foldable helmet... 😧 https://t.co/zPfPzY1pJG— lalit (@heylalit) November 28, 2019
Apparently this is not a joke. It should be, but it isn’t... https://t.co/GOdcnkRB2U— Jake Needham (@JakeNeedham) November 28, 2019
(With inputs from Reuters)