Japan, as a nation and a culture, is astonishingly good at executing a pre-determined path. But it somewhat struggles with emergencies, especially ones not in the manual. When the Kobe earthquake toppled the city, the mayor spent the day wondering what to do and the Self Defence Forces could only fly over the city on training exercises whilst the habitation below burnt to the ground. The Tohoku earthquake of 2011 wasn't much better and it took the government over a week to actually declare a disaster; something the rest of us had already figured out on day #1.
And so it was little of a surprise when the restaurant I had booked for dinner had something of a fire in their kitchen and the emergency drill said for the staff to evacuate the customers first and themselves second. In this instance a little bit of an over-reaction I fear, it seemed that an extractor fan had given up the ghost more than anything else and the room was filling with smoke from the open braziers. Still, training kicked in and the staff began clearing tables.
The only issue being that the manual clearly didn't illustrate exactly where we should evacuate to. Showing something akin to ingenuity, the manager decided we should evacuate up, after all, that's what you do in a flood. Fires are a little different though. So we headed down fifteen stories on the fire escape. Customer service being of paramount importance, the manager assigned one of the staff to lead us, pointing out where the stairs were as we went. They were actually directly in front of us, one step at a time as it were. Still, better safe than sorry and we can say we rescued one of the junior staff from certain work that evening. Hope he still got paid though.