I’m thinking of getting a fish. Browsing through the complex set of rules that define life here at the International House in Tokyo, I see that the only pet that we are allowed to keep is one that does not soil the room or disturb neighbours. A fish in an aquarium is suggested. This plan also matches both the food and the weather.
However, underneath this heavy rule-filled binder I’ve come across a 50-page brochure entitled Disaster Survival Manual. It was printed in 2009, and is in pristine condition.
It is an entirely altruistic document with a foreword by the Mayor of Meguro and written in perfect English. Following an earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor scare of 2008, its aim is to support the elderly, disabled, infants and foreign residents to evacuate. Like Blanche in A Streetcar Named Desire, in case of catastrophe we will all be depending greatly on the kindness of strangers.
There are four Tokyo earthquakes that demand attention.
- The first is the Tokyo Inland Earthquake. This is called “unsettling” as no prediction is possible.
- The second is the Tokai trench-type earthquake and will only reach a magnitude of 5 in Tokyo, so is unimportant.
- The third is the Kanagawa Quake which is of great concern.
- And the fourth is the Kanto Earthquake which destroyed the city in 1923, so is presumably over and done with.
But I am now seriously worried, as I see that I am not prepared at all.
According to instructions, the bathtub should be filled with water at all times. A crowbar, shovel, saw and automobile jack should all be to hand. Food (alfa rice and sea biscuits) and bottled water for three days should be prepared. First aid kit, helmets, cotton work gloves, flashlights and candles should be at the ready. And a portable toilet and a stock of toilet paper, heating stove, portable gas stove are all essential.
On a more whimsical note a sewing kit, waterless shampoo and writing materials should also be in the backpack at the door and ready to go. Well, not exactly go. If there is a serious tremor, you should stay inside under a table with a cushion on your head. (Note: there are no cushions.)
To take away the shock factor of an earthquake arriving out of the blue, there exists a Mobile Earthquake Simulation Truck (called GRUUTT) which visits the locality. This, I imagine, is similar to the simulator for space travel. You enter perky, keen, and cracking jokes. You exit confused, nauseous, and possibly injured. There is also a local smoke simulation house which you can also visit. These two earthquake-related events should probably not be undertaken on the same day.
You must help everyone around you in case of disaster and also prepare your pet for possible catastrophe.
I’m off to the 100-Yen shop to see what I can pick up—perhaps a pencil, a candle, a toilet roll and a small package of sea biscuits. I’ve crossed the fish off the list.