Desperation: Food, Water, Fuel, Electricity Run Short In Japan

by | Mar 21, 2011 | Headline News | 18 comments

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    It’s been ten days since the Tsunami swept through Japan and wiped out the entire infrastructure of the North Eastern part of the island. Like the US, just-in-time delivery made essentials like food and water as easily accessible as air. But when the grid goes down in an economy so dependent on inventory management, transportation, and electronic debit transactions, all hell breaks loose. Nearly two weeks on, the people in areas affected by the Tsunami and nuclear crisis have seen little relief. Many are just struggling to survive on a few hundred calories per day.

    In another time, another place, Kazuhiro Takahashi could be taken for a tramp, out scavenging for food after a long night on the bottle. In fact, he is just another hungry victim of Japan’s tsunami trying to find food for his family.

    “I am so ashamed,” says the 43-year-old construction worker after he realizes he’s been spotted. “But for three days we don’t have enough food. I have no money because my house was washed away by the tsunami and the cash machine is not working.”

    If his haul wasn’t so pitiful – his bag had two packets of defrosted prawn dumplings and a handful of vacuumpacked seafood sticks inside – Takahashi might be taken for a looter. But in the port town of Ichinomaki, 320 kilometres north of Tokyo, his story is disturbingly common.

    Japan might be a rich country, but a week after the tsunami struck it is struggling to feed and house the victims.

    “I have a place in a rescue centre in the Aka’i Elementary School, but the food they are giving us is not enough,” Takahashi says. “My parents are in their 70s and we receive a tiny bowl of plain rice twice a day, with nothing else, just a pinch of salt. We are hungry, so I have come to look for food.”

    Source: The Gazette

    Gas station queues stretching for several kilometres, long waits at supermarkets, empty store shelves and shuttered businesses have become a part of the landscape in post-tsunami Japan.

    At the foot of the Mount Iwate volcano, the people of Morioka city — almost 100 kilometres (60 miles) west of the devastated coast — are still trying to adjust to the sudden absence of many things they had simply taken for granted.

    At a gas station on the outskirts of the city, motorists waited hours on end before finally reaching the gas pump, clutching a 2,000 yen ($25, 17 euros) daily rationing coupon in their hands. The coupon is barely enough to buy a third of a tank on an average-sized city car.

    “There are no more meat and vegetables. I’m eating instant meals all the time,” said Naohiko Seki. “I would like to regain my old life, but when I think about people who suffered from the tsunami, I tell myself I shouldn’t complain.”

    Convenience stores, usually open around the clock, had row after row of empty shelves, where prepared foods like the normally ubiquitous ‘onigiri’ rice balls, water and milk products once stood.

    “It’s really strange. The stores have almost no baby food and other items. It makes me uneasy and anxious. I am worried because I don’t know whether or not I will be able to buy what my child needs,” he said.

    Source: AFP

    Author Naseem Talib calls it a black swan – an extraordinary event so remote that one cannot plan or prepare for it. Donald Rumsfeld once described events in the Iraq war as “known unknowns” and “unknown unknowns.” The only thing we really do know with respect to disaster planning is that sometimes we just can’t know what to expect due to lack of available information or contemplation.

    For those in Japan, even a cache of food, water, gas, and other reserve supplies would not have been enough. Many homes were simply wiped away, leaving residents with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs. In this situation, desperation sets in quickly. And without a local emergency response, or a culture of support, social norms, laws and decency can dissolve within days.

    The Japanese, unlike disaster victims we’ve seen in other crisis regions like New Orleans or Haiti, have been handling themselves as well as they can, without much violence or reports of looting. Emergency responders, government and the private sector have not been completely ineffective, and have managed to keep the flow of commerce moving to those parts of Japan most affected, albeit not at the pace most would expect from a leading global player.

    In Japan, ATM machines are down, and banks are closed in Tsunami areas and nuclear evacuation zones. This means that unless you had cash or something of value on your person at the time the disaster struck there is no way to acquire whatever goods are available without government assistance. Even within a technologically advanced society like Japan, however, even the basics become difficult to distribute for emergency responders and military personnel when we’re talking numbers in the millions of people.

    In his book Indivisible, author Troy Grice writes of a ration-card solution that keeps commerce moving during a US dollar currency collapse. Grice wasn’t too far off in his fictional account. In response to the wide-spread regional disaster, the Japanese government has issued ration cards, which are seemingly the only viable course of action in the first world when the monetary unit of exchange, in this case the Yen, becomes unavailable.

    Unlike the first few days of Katrina, where residents had no access to clean water or food, or Haiti, where gangs roamed the streets looking to loot and pillage essential supplies, the Japanese have been able to restore some of theirinfrastructure, namely food, water, limited gasoline and the sense that the country is starting to move forward.

    Save a further degradation of the nuclear situation, the very worst – those initial days after crisis where families lost loved ones and food and water were unavailable – may be behind the people of Japan.

    The Japanese people, it seems, have been able to hold strong. At least that’s what reports from the devastated region suggest thus far. Those who are of the ability to help have been doing so, as it is clear that the government is totally overwhelmed. Any nation whose people can respond by working together, by sharing, by comforting each other, will undoubtedly recover. Johann Hari, writes, in The myth of the panicking disaster victim, of how human beings have responded to disasters throughout history:

    The evidence gathered over centuries of disasters, natural and man-made, is overwhelming. The vast majority of people, when a disaster hits, behave in the aftermath as altruists. They organise spontaneously to save their fellow human beings, to share what they have, and to show kindness. They reveal themselves to be better people than they ever expected. When the social scientist Enrico Quarantelli tried to write a thesis on how people descend into chaos and panic after disasters, he concluded: “My God! I can’t find any instances of it.” On the contrary, he wrote, in disasters “the social order does not break down… Co-operative rather than selfish behaviour predominates”.

    On 18 April 1906, San Francisco was levelled by an earthquake. Much of the city collapsed, and the rest began to burn. Anna Amelia Holshouser – a middle-aged journalist – was thrown out of bed, and felt her house collapse around her. She wandered the streets, and found herself sleeping that night in the park. But then the daze wore off, and she did what almost everybody else did: she began to look after the people around her. She knitted tents out of old clothes to house all the children who had lost their parents. She set up a soup kitchen, and the local shop-keepers handed over the goods for free. Hundreds of people gathered there, as they were gathering around similar people across the city. Anna put up a sign that said: “One Touch of Nature Makes the Whole World Kin.

    Hat tip Aussie Suzy,


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      1. I know that many of us “preppers” intend to help our neighbors out as we are able.

      2. Comments….. Some may help neighbors, but how much is enough?  Some neighbors may demand more than what you are willing to give. If you give and give you will be just like them – you will have nothing.  I suppose I could cook a pot of beans, but what about the next day, and the next?  I often wonder what people do the day after Thanksgiving when the hungry went to the food kitchens for a Thanksgiving meal.  What about the next day, do they go back to scrounging and being hungry yearning for a turkey leg and a piece of pumpkin pie?  There’s never enough nor will there ever be enough in a time of need.  Does anyone think the government has the ability to feed every American and house them.  Japan/Haiti/Chile are good examples of why you shouldn’t rely on the government or other people JMHO.

      3. Agreed… Heck, even the US government tells us via the FEMA web site that they will not be able to deal with a wide-spread catastrophe… Call us preppers crazy, but FEMA says have 2 weeks of food and water…
        fear mongers…

      4. This may seem harsh, but it is the way of the world, perhaps People who find themselves in a situation similar to what Kazuhiro Takahashi is in just need to widen their possibilities instead of accepting defeat or relying on goberment to provide for them?

        Goldenfoxx asked, “I suppose I could cook a pot of beans, but what about the next day, and the next?”

        On the first day while serving the bean soup you instruct everyone they must bring at least one item to add to the pot the next day, a bonus and thanks for those who bring more than one item. One Person gets to bring Dolly Parton’s field stone, the rest of the People have to bring “other” items:

        Eating Mice Can Be Rather Nice

        “Is there a better name than insect eating?
        Why yes, there is. The word is Entomophagy.”

        For Most People, Eating Bugs Is Only Natural

        If someone fails to bring something the next day, a day without food might motivate them to overcome their fears and bring something for, “the next”?
        Everyone else who eats will likely be protective towards you and your cooking pot.

        If, or once things normalize, a new appreciation for the benefits provided by the free-market will likely be realized. Or perhaps a black-market will provide some variations?

        I wonder if the goberment over there prevents People from giving out free food if they lack a license to do so or fail an inspection as has happened to numerous People in the U.S. trying to give away food to the poor and disadvantaged?

      5. Those who are too ignorant or unwilling to be responsible enough to set aside a reasonable amount of food, water, energy, and other necessities for a time of crisis will get no help from me. The writing is on the wall for all to see, in plain English. Recently a lone turkey wandered into my yard; the temperature was hovering around zero so being the compassionate human being that I am I set out some grain for the poor beggar to eat. After a few days of this he put me on his rounds, I could set my watch by him. Then a few deer came and they hogged up the food set out for the turkey and caused such a ruckus that I had to stop feeding the damned thing. Then even more deer came, even though I was no longer feeding anyone. Then they demanded to be fed; they killed my trees, they broke down my trellises, they ate every shrub and bush I had in my yard. I built a buck and rail fence to keep them out; they crawled through it. I stretched barbed wire between the wood rails; they crawled under it. I shot at them every day with the shotgun; they came at night. I put 5’x16′ panels over the top of the whole fence; so far so good……..What’s the point you ask? these are DEER who want a free handout; people will not be so (easily?) dissuaded.

      6. six reactors, one of them plutonium enhanced, with with all having decades of spent rods all  located together in a populous area on an active  fault line near water with a tsunami  potential.

        does this seem wierd as hell to anyone else??

      7. Comments… hve all commented on the civilised manner of the japanese people..they are in fact civilised and honorable. but the one difference between japanese and americans is in the way they operate their households…they do not utilize the food storage/pantry/root cellar like americans.  theyare accustomed to consuming fresh foods with just a few exceptions. they shop for their produce and proteins almost on a daily basis. however, they are known for cooking massive quantities of rice at one time and eating it like we do with sidedishes/bread/leftovers. that is why they have rice but little else to eat at this time. this has always been their way/culture.

      8. Anon: Thanks for the survival tip: I will be eating deer when the sftf; and turkey!

      9. Mushroom: Its absolutely asinine for a nation that experienced two n-bombs and the devastation of two cities. Where do you think OUR reactors are located? Near the coast, on fault lines, and near large bodies of fresh water.
        N waste from a breeder reactor takes 1,000 years to detoxify. 10,000 from a regular reactor. 1,000 new N plants are waiting approval and FUNDING!
        The n-energy industry wants the American taxpayer to fund and guarantee their power plants at 25-30 billion each! Read: Bechtal and GE.

      10. Where else are they going to put it Mush?  Truth is strange.

      11. “”Agreed… Heck, even the US government tells us via the FEMA web site that they will not be able to deal with a wide-spread catastrophe… Call us preppers crazy, but FEMA says have 2 weeks of food and water…
        fear mongers…”””
         and the smart person who plans on surviving will have at least 2 yrs of prepps.

      12. It is said that a mega-tsunami (aka iminami) will strike the entire U.S. east coast within a foreseeable future. The height of the tsunami wave could stretch beyond 1800 feet and it would take down large portions of land with it.

      13. Comments…..’It rains on the just and the unjust alike’. Just a quote from a bible passage that reflects that no one is safe from trouble. Keep prepping, the shadows grow long and the darkness comes.

      14. i remember reading about george westinghouse. he discovered that alternating current  could transmit electric power through wires over a very long distance with only minimal loss of power. so why not put the nuclear plants in the sefest place and transmit the power from there.

        i don’t understand why deneral electric was allowed to build these nuclear plants in that area.

      15. Mushroom-
         It wasn’t Wesinghouse, it was Nikola Tesla who discovered alternating currnet and it’s abilities. Westinghouse just invested in Tesla and the a/c (alternating current) known as Westinghouse vs. d/c (direct current) war happened. Thomas Edison was a big investor of d/c and also Tesla’s rival. Just a FYI (-:

      16. i have a bug out of nashville house which is near  a game reserve and deer and turkey everywhere.  i also put out corn during  the “rut”

      17. ooops  wrong button.  lol
        anyhow, i have found putting plastik  jars of peanut butter on trees upside down the deer will lick it for hours.  ha.  i say keep feeding the deer, let the turkeys fight it out and  keep them coming, u will need them later.  i also am prepared to feed strangers with  rice soup and such.  u preppers.  just keep on going, and get more stored up so as to help as many as u can, and be able to share the gospel of eternal life to all who will listen, most of the hungry will.  and get them to become industrius.

      18. Gooey-
        “It is said that a mega-tsunami (aka iminami) will strike the entire U.S. east coast within a foreseeable future. The height of the tsunami wave could stretch beyond 1800 feet and it would take down large portions of land with it.”
        You’re referring to the Canary island collapse.  The island of La Palma has a volcano top (Cumbre Vieja) that is filling with water and is impervious to water.  This contains the water within building up the weight.  The size of the shear face is just about the size of Manhattan, and when the load reaches critical mass, expert scientists tell us over a trillion tons of mountain will slam into the Atlantic at about 40 MPH.  The initial wave will be an enormous 800 feet, which will travel for 9 hours toward the US eastern seaboard.  Because the shelf is flat and shallow, there are estimates that this wave will exceed 1500 feet wiping out all coastal cities from Maine to Miami.  Figure 40 Million dead on impact, and who knows how many more with the instant disruptions across every industry in this country…
        There is a ton of information available on this topic, and I actually am 8 Chapters in writing a book about it…Novel actually..

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