According to an article in the Yomiuri Shimbun on Jan 23, seismologists at the University of Tokyo have ratcheted up the possibility of the Kanto area being struck by a large earthquake. These data have been vigorously disputed by other vernacular media, but Nikkei Trendy (April) reports that since the article appeared, retail outlets have been struggling to meet unprecedented demand for emergency and disaster goods.
“For about one week from late January, we sold over 200 manual-recharging radios with built-in flashlights, which had not been selling so well previously, and over 1,000 ‘space blankets’ to ward off hypothermia,” says Saneomi Kiyono, sales supervisor of the disaster goods corner of Tokyu Hands in Shibuya.
Due to the surge in demand, from Feb 14, the store expanded floor space devoted to such goods and shifted display of other disaster-related merchandise—such as tents and canned-gas fueled space heaters—from other store departments.
A spokesperson for the Don Quixote-affiliated Doito Nishi Arai home center in Tokyo’s Adachi Ward said after the article appeared in Yomiuri, demand soared for metal L-brackets, used to prevent furniture from toppling over. The shop has since expanded its selection of disaster-related merchandise by 40%.
“Sales have been particularly heavy on weekends, and we are having difficulty keeping some items in stock,” the spokesperson remarked, adding that demand for disaster-related goods is up threefold from a year ago.
Also since late January, consumers have been stocking up on emergency food supplies, particularly items with shelf life of up to five years. Kampan (hardtack) and crackers are a staple, but because they are dry, they can cause thirst, thereby using up more water, so Tokyu Hands’ Kiyono advises people to also keep on hand hard candies that help salivation.
In addition to stocking their homes, people are storing certain items at their workplace. The rise in demand may in fact be due to people purchasing two of the same item, one for their home and one for their workplace—for example, hand-crank battery rechargers that can be used to provide juice for cell phones and portable AM radios.
The Trendy article ran lists of the top-selling disaster items at the outlets of four retailers:
At Tokyu Hands, Shibuya branch, the top three were Dynamo hand-cranked radio/flashlight (2,400 yen); lightweight “space blanket” (490 yen); and canned kampan (262 yen/can).
At BIC Camera, Ikebukuro main store, the two best selling items were the JTR-10 kit, a rucksack containing a first aid kit, gloves, a 5-meter-long nylon rope, rechargeable radio, rain poncho and others, at 7,480 yen, and a solar-powered multifunction radio/light (5,964 yen)
At Doito, Nishi Arai branch, the top five selling items were brackets to secure bookshelves and other furniture (up to M7 quake) (for 2,280 yen); a solar-powered flashlight (2,480 yen); appliance stabilizer pads (880 yen and up); anti-dust filter mask (3,290 yen); and “Tatamet,” a helmet that folds for easy storage (4,980 yen).
And at Keiyo Deitsu, in Akiruno City the top three were a furniture stabilizer bracket (1,290 yen); window lock (498 yen); and hand-crank radio/flashlight (1,980 yen).
But will the procuring of such items be sufficient? Not by a long shot, says crisis management consultant Nobue Kunizaki, author of “Fifty ways to protect your child from a major earthquake.”
“Local governments are supposed to provide one toilet for every 100 residents. That means a two- to three-hour wait to use one,” Kunizaki tells Nikkan Gendai (March 7). Instead, she recommends keeping plastic refuse bags and deodorizer compounds on hand to meet the call of nature.
“It’s important to keep two to three weeks’ supply of food on hand,” Kunizaki adds. “After a major quake, it’s better not to expect that prefectures outside of Tokyo would be able to start resupplying the capital within three days. Daily necessities such as shampoo and toilet paper will also be needed.”