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Retailers report surging demand for disaster and emergency goods

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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."

© Japan Today

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17 Comments
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An emergency kit is always good. I am a vegetarian and I find it hard to get canned foods or cup noodles in Japan. Even during the March 11 quake, I picked some Peanut Sandwiches from the convenient stores.. ... Any idea where you can find some canned vegetarian food?????

0 ( +0 / -0 )

a little too late i see no major earthquake or tsunami for atleast 15 years.

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

Fire extinguisher. Crescent and pipe wrenches to turn off gas and water pipes. Utility knife. Matches. Flashlights Portable radio with extra batteries. Non-electric, hand-held can opener. Camp stove or barbecue to cook outdoors Waterproof, heavy-duty plastic bags, a shovel and toilet paper. Also, bring disinfectant and hand sanitizer. Nylon rope and duct tape.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Ever since I moved from Yokohama to Nagoya, my wife would, from time to time, complain why I would need to bring hard hats and a couple pairs of steel-toed safety shoes that I have brought to Japan from various project sites I have been to.

I also have a bag that contains 20-meter rope, a roadmap of Japan, a rechargable torch, a dynamo, some duct tape, band aids, bandages, alcohol, 3 bars of Irish Spring (yeah, i like the smell of these), socks (5 pairs for for her and 5 for me), shirts, pants, underwear, toilet paper and plastic plates, cups, spoons and forks, a laptop (battery packed separately) and other stuff. Right beside this bag is a belt bag which contains our passports, some emergency cash (in 3 currencies) and a compass.

Just in case. The shoes, hard had, bag and belt bag have been in that same corner of the room for 4 years now. I just change the alcohol, soap and other items once a year.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Last March has been a big wake up call to many. I've been hearing for years about the 'Big One' but last year, experienced the quake and it gave a horrifying new perspective on it all. In Tokyo, we were all so lucky and it has made us all so much aware of what the reality of a major quake hitting here could be like. I'd like to think we are more prepared now than ever.

-4 ( +2 / -6 )

Always always be prepared, even if just to the bare minimum, if nothing happens then it wont matter. But if by some chance it does and you are able to get to your survival kit/goods/stash it maybe a live saver.

Keeping some sort of kit by your desk at work is also a good precautionary measure. Chances are though you'll be in bed at home as most people spend about a third of there life in bed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

you would have to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time

Not necessarily. After a big quake, even if it isn't totally catastrophic and your house doesn't fall down you may have to cope, as many of us did last year, with empty shops and power cuts. Leaking gas/water pipes might mean having to spend a night or two away from home. Having those supplies to hand would be a great help.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I used to keep an earthquake emergency kit at home but just stopped after switching things in and out for years on end. There is, of course, a reason to keep such a thing, but you would have to be lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time (I realize the irony in saying that about an earthquake) to be able to even access your kit. Having on at both work and home makes the chances higher, but again.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Its also interesting to note that in a disaster its quite likely the cell phones won't be able to connect, but the pay phones might still work. But this disaster prone country is ripping out the pay phones! Morons.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Two things I keep handy are a hand axe and a lighter. Fire is light, warmth, boiling water and cooking food. In a serious disaster fire is a very wonderful thing to have. But I live in the country. If the big one hits Tokyo, you will have more fire than you want!

In the camping goods section of Watahan, I found an orange colored combination whistle, compass, thermometer and flashlight for something like 300 yen. It also has a small magnifying glass and a space where you could put a piece of paper with phone numbers and other information. It was such a deal I could not pass it up.

Also, I always make sure there is some bottled water around the house, and also lots of canned goods from Costco. Japan really does not do canned goods for some reason. In a disaster, you would be really grateful for some Underwood Deviled Ham. Not much like that here.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

zichi - me too - I have my heavy duty military compass and a mini maglite always at hand. Smartphones also provide one sometimes, but with a very limited battery life... Additionally, under my desk I have the emergency helmet provided by my company, filled with emergency food and water, and a space blanket. It should suffice for a family for 1 day, or for a person for about 2-3 days...

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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.

Hang on, I thought we've known forever that Tokyo is supposed to be struck by a huge earthquake soon? The one that has been recorded as happening every 150ish years for the past 1000 years? I didn't see this as fear-mongering but a reminder that there's a good chance it'll happen.

Of course, if it doesn't happen, that's awesome, but I don't really see the harm in being prepared. Canned goods, extra water, flashlights and first aid kits should be in every household, I don't think that's particularly drastic.

0 ( +1 / -0 )

What's over the top, Nicky? Tents, maybe.... the rest is all pretty much standard fare; a supply of food and water, first aid kit, radio, torch, gas ring powered by canister, something to stop the furniture falling on you and a helmet for the smaller things that might fall. Keeping warm is also important.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I agree we need to be prepared but some of these things seem a little OTT to me.

And 1 toilet per 100 residents - youll only need to wait 2-3 hours if everyone decides they need to go at the same time! unless someone decides they need to do their make up in there in which case yes, then we are all screwed!

-15 ( +0 / -13 )

Except for the kampan, almost everything mentioned above is manufactured in China.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Is there a correlation between the scare mongering articles and the sales of these good??? THINGS THAT MAKE YOU GO .... HMMMMMMMMMMM.....

0 ( +1 / -1 )

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