Always be prepared

What a crazy day it’s been. The excitement in Japan never ceases. And by ‘excitement’, I mean natural disasters. A huge, intense typhoon battered central Japan today and now making its way up north…but not before passing through Tokyo. Everyone had been waiting in anticipation for it, and not in a good way. More bracing ourselves for it.

Yesterday/last night, both the Canadian and Australian embassies issued alert warnings via email. I’ve been living in Japan for 6 years and never have I received an alert for typhoon reasons…and there’s usually a dozen or so typhoons a year in Japan. This one was expected to be a doozy. We had some heavy rain overnight as the typhoon made its way east and north.

Today was windy, rainy…but for most of the morning…nothing too intense. By afternoon/early evening, the typhoon hit Tokyo. It was expected to hit between 3-6pm. And it delivered. Most companies were letting people go home early….but not early enough. Around 3-4pm is when most people who wanted to leave early left…but that was when all the trains shut down. So many train lines all went down around 3.30pm leaving masses of people stranded at train stations unable to get home. I, on the other hand was at work, in the office. One – there was a lot of work that needed to be done. It was crazy busy today. Not to mention that we’re shortstaffed at the moment. And secondly, no point in trying to leave the office only to be stranded at the station – this happened on the day of the earthquake. In my attempt to leave early and head for the airport…I was stuck underground at Tokyo station for 8 hours! Better to stay indoors. Quite a few people tried to leave, only to return back to the office and wait it out instead. Train lines were down, and even once they were back up, they were going to be delayed and backlogged by millions of Tokyoites all wanting to get home. Some intense crazy winds whipped through Tokyo. Even our office building was shaking from the wind! Ploughed through work which kept us busy, but was able to work shorter hours thanks to the typhoon. Didn’t want to be stuck in the office all night. Trains eventually started running again…albeit delayed and not to any schedule. Some are out of action altogether. Was lucky to get home without too much drama…apart from the fact that the trains were more crowded than usual! What an insane day.

The typhoon stuck around a few hours and is now headed north. That’s a cause for concern because it’s going to batter Tohoku which has had more than enough damage and wreckage. It also appears that I may be following the typhoon (or is it following me?) because I am actually due to fly to Hokkaido on Friday morning. I’m hoping that the typhoon is done with by tomorrow…but there is a possibility that it may reach Hokkaido on Friday. I think it will go out to sea though. The airports were in chaos with practically all domestic flights cancelled today. With the typhoon having passed, through Tokyo at least, I am expecting hot humid weather to follow for the next week or so. I’ve observed that intense hot days follow after a typhoon. I don’t know why (care to shed any light on that, Alex?!) Got home fine tonight after seeing out the typhoon at the office. But on my way home I saw a lot of abandoned umbrellas. They were no match for these winds. Not much later after I had gotten home…there was an earthquake! Geez. Never a dull moment in Japan. I had actually secretly been worried about this all day – I knew the typhoon was coming, but what if we also got an earthquake at the same time. We still get multiple baby earthquakes everyday. The apartment started shaking slightly…and at first, I couldn’t tell whether it was because of the typhoon winds (which had subsided) or an actual earthquake. Turned out to be 5.3 magnitude earthquake at the source. Not so bad in Tokyo though. I’ve become super, super sensitive to shakes and earthquakes. I can usually feel even the slightest of earthquakes. Sometimes my own heartbeat/pulse keeps me awake at night and I mistake it for a slight earth tremor. Central Japan has suffered a lot of damage as a result of this typhoon – the news footage has been intense – with much flooding.

These natural disasters are taking its toll on the landscape and the economy here. It’s been a wild weather day here, yet things in Tokyo, will go back to normal tomorrow. With all these natural disasters…it’s important to be prepared for anything! That’s why it’s necessary to have an emergency kit or emergency supplies on hand. I am a super organized person..bordering on obsessively organised. I’m a planner. I make lists to make lists. I have a very serious obsession/addiction to making lists! “Always be prepared” was the Boy Scout motto. I was actually a Brownie – of the Girl Guide variety and not the edible chocolate kind, when I was a young girl in primary school. Our motto was LAH – Lend A Hand. I much preferred the Boy Scout motto. So after the March earthquake, I made sure to prepare a little emergency kit. I kind of haphazardly put stuff together with stuff around the apartment, and haven’t really updated it since.

From Emergency kit

Here’s what it contains:

– 4 small packet of tissues (doubles as toilet paper)

– wet tissue/wipes

– honey lollies

– packet of gummie bears

– plastic bag

– 2 mini bottles of water

– 2 packets of Calorie mate (nutrition bars)

– 1 packet Prune/dried raisin biscuits

– 2 bandanas (useful as a cloth, hanky, sling etc)

– A packet of sesame bars

– facewasher

– onsen towel (a small body towel)

– a pencil

– a pen

– notebook

– photocopy of my Gaijin card (identity card that is mandatory for foreigners in Japan)

– a little keychain watch (I don’t own a watch so I’ll need to know what the time is)

– Hokkairo (heat patch)

– Plastic cup

– a fork

– spare empty ziplock bag

– Rain poncho

– box of matches (but no candles…must add that to the shopping list and get me some)

– a tiny medical kit (containing: eye mask, face mask, bandaids, toothbrush, cotton buds, Advil, feminine hygiene products – I’ve put these into a little Qantas airline kit that you get free on airplanes.)

– Sudoku puzzles (pages ripped out from a Sudoku book – figured it was a way to kill time without being electricity-generated entertainment.)

This all fits nicely into one very small portable drawstring cloth bag (about half the size of a pillow) which is easy to pick up in a hurry should I ever need to evacuate. I keep it right by the door in the genkan, so I only have to pick it up on my way out the door.

From Emergency kit
From Emergency kit

I also keep 2L Bottled water by the door as well. I only drink tap water at home…but safe to have bottled water as well, especially after the radiation scares that we had. So that’s all the stuff that I would have in a pinch. At any given time, I also have a handbag and that also holds further essentials, like my iPhone, purse, camera, other bits and bobs, and a torch. I have a small torch wherever I go. It’s basically survival stuff that would get me through 2-3 days if needed before getting on a flight back home, if for example I was stuck in an evacuation centre or the airport for a few days.

Stuff like the laptop, clothes and all other possessions would most likely get left behind if needed. At the end of the day, it’s all replaceable. I have backed up the majority of my photos on online photo albums (I have just under 400 albums saved on Picasa!)…so things like my photos on my hard drive would be ok to leave behind. A lot of photos are also on this blog…so that’s kinda nice too to have. Other important docs I have saved in my email account and Dropbox – if I were to leave behind my computer. The laptop and the SLR camera would probably be the two tangible possessions I most care about. I also leave my passport in an accessible place to grab in an emergency. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Having an emergency kit though is only fine when you’re at home. But when disaster strikes…most likely you’ll be at work or out somewhere, and not in the comfort and safety of your own house. I really should also prepare a mini-kit for my desk at work.

After the March earthquake, I did put some small emergency things in place. I always keep a bottle of water on my desk that I don’t touch – it’s to grab in an emergency. I also keep a pair of old sneakers under my desk in case I ever have to walk home from work – not much fun in heels or work shoes. I keep a toothbrush and toothpaste and some snacks in my drawers (the furnitute kind not my briefs) as well. And again, my handbag will always be with me, so I’ll have my torch, purse, phone etc with me. I should put together a proper kit though…especially considering I’m always at work when all this stuff happens! There’s more stuff that I should add to my kit, but you’ve also got to keep it portable. The idea is to not take the whole apartment with you, as tempting as that is! I remembered reading this timely article (I am follower of this blog) and if you read through all the comments, there are some great suggestions in there. It was good stuff for me to consider. And yeah, I saw that movie too, so it really does make you think what is essential for survival but at the same time keeping it to a minimum. You’ve got to brace yourself for anything these days it seems. My kit is kind of a work-in-progress. Is there anything else that I must add to it??