On Thursday night I was emailing with Tokyo-based Japanese food expert Elizabeth Andoh (author of Kansha, Washoku, and many other wonderful cookbooks) and didn’t hear back from her until this morning. My questions to her about Japanese food matters instantly became irrelevant on Friday when I heard about the Sendai earthquake and tsunami. Not knowing if I’d reach her, I sent an impotent note, hoping that she was at her Osaka home when the quake hit. There was no response.
Around 9am today, I received the message below. Elizabeth sent it out via the email list of A Taste of Culture, her cooking and teaching program in Tokyo and Osaka.
For those of us who have lived through natural disasters and war, Elizabeth reminds us of the importance of being prepared. Help out, if you can.
When the first huge, terrifying quake hit on Friday afternoon, March 11, I was in Tokyo preparing for a class the following day. Having lived through several large quakes before (including one in which I was trapped in an elevator for hours before being rescued), I knew what to do. Trembling (me, and the earth together), I went into automatic mode, shutting off anything that could cause a fire, propping open the front door and one other escape route in the kitchen (door frames can shift causing them to jam shut), donned my emergency kit-knapsack (containing flashlight, extra batteries, water, essential medications, money, identification papers, gloves, face mask, first aid supplies, extra sweater with hood). The initial quake lasted for several minutes -- it seemed as though it would never stop.
Still trembling (me, and the earth together), I turned on the emergency news channel and learned the center of seismic activity (the largest on record in Japan, currently revised at 9.0) was Miyagi Prefecture, on the Pacific coast, north of Tokyo. Gigantic tsunami (tidal waves) were predicted, and came... and keep coming. As do tremors of varying degrees (as I type this, my desk sways slightly in a minor aftershock).
Transportation and communication services have been widely disrupted -- frustrating and frightening. To conserve energy, limited and rotating shut-downs are being scheduled throughout the Kanto Plains area. At this time I have access to the Internet and grab the opportunity to make two requests:
To those of you who live in Japan, especially in areas likely to be directly affected by heavy seismic activity in the next few months, PLEASE take this moment to check on your own preparedness to manage during emergencies. I highly recommend you look at 72 hours (based in San Francisco), a wonderfully thorough site that provides good basic information.
To those who want to offer help to disaster relief efforts in Japan, please contribute to your favorite charity or organization collecting for this occasion. If you have no established route, please consider one of the following:
Japan class update:
March programs at A Taste of Culture in Tokyo have been canceled. At this time, the class in Osaka on April 2nd, as well as programs in Tokyo planned for May, June and July will meet as scheduled.
Elizabeth is a tough cookie. Look how she’s only cancelling the March classes in Tokyo! In addition to the resources Elizabeth pointed to, check out the CNN page, "Tsunami Relief and How You Can Help" for listings of non-profits and resources such as Google's People Finder, which is helping people reconnect with loved ones.
I don't have a disaster/emergency kit per se and should have one. However, in the event of a major disaster, I am ready with: Bottled water, booze, frozen food, and a working grill. That's how my husband and I got through the 1994 Northridge quake. It was a pansy of a 6.7 tremblor but we discovered that our Santa Monica apartment was located on top of a jiggly alluvial plain!
We now own a separate freezer. We also safely keep our liquor in a wood chest and store ingredients such as soy sauce and fish sauce low to the ground, in pull out plastic containers that roll on wheels. Flour is low to the ground too. Have you ever had to clean up that stuff after it spills during an earthquake? I have.
In the aftermath of an emergency, turn off the gas lines going to your house and fill up as many containers as you can with water because the water main is likely to be shut off for a while.
Got tips for disaster or earthquake preparedness? Please share.
Note: The photo at the top was from Reuters. For more compelling images, visit the Atlantic's photo gallery.