Tokyo Tidbit: Disaster Specials

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An earthquake struck Tokyo around noon on September 1, 1923, while people were cooking lunch over open fires: Over 100,000 people burned to death in the city “built of wood and paper.” Now, September 1 is “Disaster Prevention Day.” And it’s time to go shopping for foldable helmets.

An earthquake struck Tokyo around noon on September 1, 1923, while people were cooking lunch over open fires: Over 100,000 people burned to death in the city “built of wood and paper.” Now, September 1 is “Bousai no hi,” disaster prevention day. You check fire extinguishers, review escape routes, and do earthquake drills. And you replenish emergency kits and supplies: flashlights, rice with a long shelf life, canned food, hand-chargeable radios … even foldable walking shoes (women learned on 3/11 that it’s hard to walk 10 or 20 miles in heels). Popular item: a strap with a small whistle and light for ¥1,260 ($16) that can be attached to your cell phone to have handy in case you’re trapped under rubble. Another top seller: a foldable helmet for ¥5,000 ($67). Foldable helmet? I mean, come on. According to a poll by Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance Co., people spent on average ¥9,606 ($112) on disaster items in 2011. And companies made out like bandits. As they say, never let a serious crisis go to waste.

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