What to Do When An Earthquake Hits Japan
Japan might be one of the best places to be in an Earthquake
I often tell my friends that Japan might be one of the best places to be in an earthquake. Why? Nooo, you say! “I don't want it to happen when I am in town!” “Cant it wait till I leave?”. Hmmm, Mother Nature is usually pretty unpredictable and actually can be quite surprising in her timing and concentration. Simply put….all of us in Japan are pretty much always expecting Mother Nature to make her move. Honestly, thanks to the volcanic growth and tectonic movement under our feet, we enjoy hot springs, beautiful mountains, countless islands to explore, wonderful wildlife and fertile land. Our Island Nation is constantly growing and on the move, I mean, have you seen the criss-crossing fault lines under Japan? Half of Japan is actually on the North American Plate…which actually makes me (an American) feel closer to home ☺
Anyway, I was here during the Kobe earthquake, the Tohoku quake on March 11, 2011 and the countless jolts, rocking and slight shaking that went on in-between. Yes, it was scary and there were many tragedies, so much loss. At the same time though, I understood all that much better the absolute necessity of being prepared as much as we can and that it is the little things that count most.
So, from a Senpai who has been here 27 years, here is what I would recommend you carry around while travelling through this beautiful land.
Here is what to carry
Snacks: My mother-in-law (at the time) always had a few snacks, candies and crackers in her bag. She lived through the War as well as the much harder and leaner times where there was little food and lots of neighborly cooperation after the war so she knew having a bit of food on hand can really help in a pinch. After the earthquake, I realized I might have been caught in a more remote place for a day or so. In that case, a bit of food to keep the energy up would be a smart thing to have stashed in my bag. A product called Calorie Mate (a type of Japanese energy bar) would be perfect to carry around with you.
Tenugui: There is a little hand towel sold in Japan called “Tenugui”. This has got to be one of the most delicate, beautiful and utterly useful items ever! Japan is a hugely “Eco” or environmentally conscious country and the Tenugui was used since long ago as a multi-functional, artistic cloth. Nicely designed and printed, the light cotton Tenugui can be cooled down in water and then wrapped around your neck or head on hot summer days, you can wipe rain or snow drops from your clothing or bag before boarding a crowded train, wrap up little snacks and treats for your day or use as a makeshift ground covering if you need to sit down. Tenugui is a lovely, light Japanese product so it is also perfect as a gift for friends and family back home.
Whistle: A whistle is always good to have. Sometimes structures get jolted and doors disjointed so as you saw in “Titanic” the whistle can save your day just like it did for Rose.
Charger: The charger for your phone. There was plenty of electricity after the quake but if you don't have the charger, your smart phone will go off pretty quickly. Facebook and Gmail were the first to work after the quake and the best way to communicate so just in case you cant get back to your accommodation right away, you would want to keep your charger with you.
Passport: Copies of your passport and insurance card. Most people don't like to carry around their passport so a copy will do just fine.
Slippers: Slippers by your bed. Just in case the lights might be out and broken glass around, you want to keep a pair or shoes or slippers by your bed.
Each convenience store has underwear, cosmetics, food items and more. Tokyo has enough water stored for every single person for a few days, schools have blankets and other necessities stored for the community when the need arises and most people know the precautions to take in a natural disaster.
Seriously…me included…you have a bunch of natural disaster experienced Senpai all around, so if you feel a jolt, hear of a typhoon closing in, are told about an upcoming snow storm, etc., simply ask around and you are sure to find a lot of calming knowledge and friendly people who are more than ready to help you weather the storm.
Former Deep Japan Writer