The famous Mukojima district in Sumida Ward is considered extremely vulnerable to seismic activity and fire due to its narrow streets and older wooden building stock. To help prevent a catastrophic fire like those that destroyed Tokyo in the earlier part of the 20th Century, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government redeveloped Shirahige-Higashi district to build a large, open evacuation space along the Sumida River, fronted by enormous fireproof apartment blocks.
18 blocks of apartments were developed fronting a new, impressive park. The combination of apartments and park were designed to support 100,000 evacuees escaping from the nearby neighborhoods if a large scale fire were to occur. These blocks are notable for their size (their scale is in direct opposition to the one- and two-story homes across the street), and their unique fire protection measures.
The buildings are constructed of extra thick reinforced concrete, and each building entrance and window that faces Tsutsumi-dori is equipped with a rolling steel shutter which will close in event of emergency. Larger steel shutters also stand between individual buildings, creating a complete, closed firewall when shut. Buildings are also connected by underground trenches and linked by a central command center.
The easiest way to spot the Shirahige-Higashi firewall is to note the red fire cannons dotting the Tsutsumi-dori facing walls, intended to help quell an inferno across the street.
- Prof. Norisuke Sakai, Tokyo Institute of Technology
- Mukojima machizukuri