What to eat in an earthquake (3)


Unsurprisingly, there were no trains. The station monitors at Tsukiji were showing rolling news of tsunami carnage up the coast. Most people just stared at the information with disbelief until they pulled themselves away to consider how to get home.

Fortunately for me I was a vistor, with a hotel in central-ish Tokyo. My colleague however lived about 25 miles away so decided to sleep at the office. You can see my route home on the map; 16.5 Km door to door apparently but I think the predicted time is not for somebody lugging a computer and carrier bag of trade show brochures. Without doubt, the one positive of the experience was that I realised even Tokyo is relatively easy to get around on foot.

After a couple of hours further walking I stopped to rest and looked in a window of a small gallery. There were still a few people inside and they saw me. "Do come in!" they said and gave me a glass of sake. It turned out that it was supposed to be the opening night of a new exhibition. We were expecting about 200 people the man said, but you are the only one. They asked me which painting I liked most. It was Hobson's choice but I pointed at the one positioned centrally, tactically assuming it was not in that prominent position by accident. Then I preceded down to my hotel in Naka-Meguro arriving, shortly after midnight.

The following morning I went down for breakfast. All news channels were showing the enormity of the situation, with the foreign channels, skillfully combining the footage with poor quality commentary and bonkers telephone interviews with people desperate to be famous for 5 minutes. Nevertheless it was time to get out and about. My hotel was very close to a branch of the wildly successful discount chain DonQuiote. This is the sort of store that you can only imagine succeed in Japan and perhaps other Asian countries. If you need two tomatoes, a pair of jeans, some obscure imported liqueur and a suitcase to put it all in, then this is the place for you. And on that day it seemed to be the place for everyone to panic buy as the queue was enomous. I made a mental note to come back later (much later as it's conveniently open 24 hours).

When I did return in the evening, the shop was still busy. It was fascinating seeing what emergency purchasing priortised; number 1 was loo paper and tissues. It was also interesting to see the volume of emergency purchases, given that a supermarket trolley in such stores is just a hand basket on a trolley frame. I went for cereal (good to see Dorset museli flying the flag out there), some milk and - to balance it out - two cans of beer with some crisps.

And that is how the next days continued until I finally departed with all meetings predictably cancelled but a surprisingly stable internet connection. My colleagues had rolling black-outs due to insufficient electricity but in central Tokyo we were unaffected. And once the trains started running again the stations saved energy with jazz-feel soft lighting. I went out most nights locally and found it strange that while the expensive Italian restaurants were still heaving with their Bentleys and Lexus' parked nearby, Don Quiote had long since run out of loo paper, milk and basics. In fact the only thing it had plenty in plentiful supply was the obscure liqueurs. Some things just never sell.