Northern Japan was recently hit by the fifth most powerful earthquake in history. As I live in Tokyo, I was in no immediate danger. However as the aftershocks continue and two nuclear power plants are threatening to meltdown, things in Tokyo are starting to resemble the first scenes of a disaster movie.
Gasoline is becoming difficult to find, stores are closed, and grocery and convenience store shelves are becoming more and more bare as panic buying sets in. On the plus side, the natural orderliness of the Japanese is really setting an example for the rest of the world on how to behave during a disaster. I hope they continue to maintain their dignity and community spirit.
I will revise this post as thoughts come to mind.
Update: March 18th, 2011
For those of you still in Tokyo and the surrounding areas, here are some tips / tricks for shopping and finding things that are hard to find. Also included are some ideas for dealing with a blackout. Please add your ideas as well.
Hard to come by:
Two liter bottles of drinks - These are few and far between - you may have to suck it up and buy 1 liter or 500ml bottles; it's more expensive though.
We've been using old PET bottles and filling them up; in an emergency we can run them through a Brita filter. I'm pretty sure these are not yet sold out where I live. Additionally, tap water here is safe to drink; however, you can buy an extra filter that goes on the faucet - there are plenty of these left.
Batteries - Keep checking the 100 Yen stores as they seem to be receiveing regular shipments; I lucked out the other day and got some rechargeable AA batteries. They would only sell me three (I wanted four) to make sure there were enough to go around. I also found plenty of AA and AAA batteries at my local Nitori (a home furnishings / appliance store) - they were next to the clocks.
Flashlights - Flashlights are nowhere to be found. That said, we were able to purchase flashlights designed for bicycles. One LED flashlight with batteries cost us 1000 Yen; it's powerful and easily fits in your pocket.
Instant Noodles & Canned Foods - Grocery stores are pretty sold out; however, smaller specialty shops such as Kaldi and Cave de Maya are still getting supplies. There seems to be plenty of pasta as well. Mmmm...pasta...
Toilet paper has vanished. Tissues have not. Enough said.
No matter what, get to the stores early; supplies are coming in, but they're going out fast.
As for a blackout:
Toilets work on gravity - you can still flush a toilet even if the power is out. However, the tank will not refill due to pumps not working. We filled our bathtub and then filled the toilet with water from the tub.
Large and medium size candles are hard to come by as well - see the flashlight section above. The 100 Yen stores still have lighters and small candles.
Radios are available at some department stores, but they are expensive and it is hard to get batteries. My cellphone has a built-in radio; perhaps yours does as well. Some Mp3 players also have built-in radios.
These conditions are what I've seen where I live (Wakoshi, which is about 20 minutes northwest from Ikebukuro). YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). Keep checking back at your local stores and get out early.
Update: May 3, 2011
Sorry to say, I haven't really been keeping up with my blogging during the past couple of months. Here are a few thoughts off the top of my head:
- To quote The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, "Don't panic."
- Radiation is scary, but ignorance more so. Arm yourself with the facts before panicking. Tokyo is 240 km from the Fukushima reactors. Three times the normal radiation level is still thousandths the amount considered harmful to humans.
- In 1979, I lived about 8 km from Three Mile Island. I'm still here. I live 240 km from Fukushima - I plan on being around a long time.
- As of this post, there are still countless people displaced by the earthquake, thousands missing, and thousands dead. If you're not one of them, related to one of them, or friends with one of them, you were merely inconvenienced - don't make it about you. Count your blessings, donate, and/or volunteer.
- My respect for and belief in the press (Fox News notwithstanding) have been irrevocably shattered; the sensationalism of the so-called mainstream press was embarrassing at best and criminal at worst. Sadly, yellow journalism is alive and well.
- The Japanese people have their flaws, as do we all. However, their collective calm and support for one another is an inspiration; the rest of the world could learn a lot from them.
- Fortunately, we only had one three-hour blackout in my area. It was surprisingly calm, peaceful, and relaxing.
Of course, that's just my opinion - I could be wrong.