Anyone who has visited Japan will, sooner or later, notice the local authorities’ sensitivity to natural disasters. Japan sits on the “Ring of Fire”: an earthquake-prone area that runs along the Asia-Pacific area, across the Bering Sea in the north and then down the western coast of North and South America.
Recently I saw a story on the BBC website about a disaster survival manual that had been written specifically for people in Tokyo, and distributed to them for free, which has caught people’s attention from outside the capital. Despite it being available for free download (link to the English version here) people seem to want the physical version, and copies of the manual have been popping up on e-bay.
I took a look at it and, apart from being impressed by the English, I found it quite fascinating. The manual begins with a clear warning that a large earthquake will almost certainly hit Tokyo in the next thirty years. On the one hand, this could seem alarmist. On the other hand, pretending it’ll never happen would be worse.
It’s full of useful information. One tip that hadn’t occured to me is that if you’re trapped, don’t shout for help since that’ll wear you out. Instead, repeatedly hit something so people will hear you.
I can totally understand why this book has become so desirable. It covers a wide range of subjects and is reassuring in its tone. But at the same time, there’s always something haunting about when authorities start to prepare the population for the worst. It kind of reminded me of the old Protect And Survive leaflet from the 1980s when a nuclear war seemed possible. It tried to be helpful but instead came across as being doom-laden and pessimistic.