by Bonnie Wurst – mtltimes.ca
On March 11th 2011 a 9.0 magnitude earthquake hit 231 miles northeast of Tokyo, Japan. The earthquake caused a tsunami with 30 foot waves that damaged several nuclear reactors in the area. It was the fourth largest earthquake on record (since 1900) and the largest to hit Japan. As of February 2014 the confirmed death toll was close to 16,000 people. Hundreds of metric tons of radioactive water leaked from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant and has since been snaking its way through the Pacific Ocean. To this day, debris from the tsunami continues to wash up on the eastern shorelines of Canada and the US.
It not only effected Japan, but the entire planet – the Earth actually shifted on its axis of rotation during the event and shortened the length of day by about a microsecond.
What transpired was horrifying, devastating and absolutely no laughing matter – but when I recently read about a public awareness campaign by Japan’s government called ‘Let’s Stockpile Toilet Paper’, part of their Basic Disaster Management Plan based on lessons learned from the deadly March 2011 event – I couldn’t help but giggle, given the graveness of everything else surrounding it. Sometimes a little laughter in the most difficult of times can be very healing.
Upon further research I discovered that Japanese officials are basically telling everyone in the country to not ‘get caught with their pants down’ in the event of a disaster. They are warning people about the potential of a nationwide toilet paper shortage. I kid you not.
“Toilet paper is an indispensable part of daily life,” said Satoshi Kurosaki, an industry executive who is leading the toilet paper campaign. “And yet 41 percent of the supply comes from an extremely high-risk zone. So we should be prepared.”
“After running out of toilet paper, people start using tissue, and that could clog up precious workable toilets,” said Toshiyuki Hashimoto, a ministry official in charge of paper products.
As part of the campaign, makers (nearly 40 toilet paper companies) are offering a tightly rolled, 150 meter long, single-layer toilet paper that ‘lasts more than twice as long as a regular roll’.
150 meters, impressive. And I thought Royale Double Rolls ruled the throne. I wonder how they will manage to get a case into their compact Kei cars? I see an export opportunity here for Ford with their F-Series full-sized pickup trucks, no?
“A family of four should be able to survive for a month on a six-roll pack, priced at 460 yen ($4.40 US) and with a five-year expiration date,” said Kurosaki.
I didn’t know toilet paper had an expiration date! Maybe it has something to do with a Sushi heavy diet, but six double rolls for a family of four doth not a month make, not in my household anyway.
There’s even an exhibition running on the ground floor of the trade ministry’s offices in central Tokyo. I imagine the line ups for the washrooms are long – and wonder if samples are being offered for a test run. Visitors are able to ‘take a look’ at the emergency toilet paper, which comes ‘without an inner cardboard role for easier storage’.
Pause for thought here… then how do they hang up the rolls? Better yet, how do they unroll it? Toss it up in the air like they do in stadiums and make a well-calculated grab for the desired length needed? Roll it across the floor to each other with each person situated at a pre-determined distance? Then again, maybe a chopstick stabbed carefully through the center of the roll will do the trick.
In truth, stockpiling toilet paper does make sense and should be taken seriously enough – many people naturally think only of food, water, blankets and matches as part of their emergency supplies and toilet paper might be forgotten. It could pretty ugly inside a bunker without a roll of kitten’y soft tissue by your side – especially if one recently consumed too much of the North-Americanized sushi we eat here.
“Along with food, toilet paper was among the first items that disappeared from store shelves during the disaster, even outside disaster-hit areas,” Hashimoto said in front of a public display decorated with campaign posters, including one saying ‘Be prepared and no regrets!’. Or loosely translated, ‘Don’t lose your knickers in a twister!’
I don’t know about you, but the next time Mega Rolls go on special here, I’m grabbing a few cases for my bunker – with a couple of dozen Febreze Meadow & Rain scented candles for that ‘grassy meadow, misted in early-morning, dewy fresh’ feeling.
Japan will be prepared… and may their only regret be never having to use their stockpile.
Bonnie Wurst is a freelance journalist, a weekly columnist and feature writer for the Montreal Times, a novelist, ghost writer (not the scary kind) and humorist. Her book “Damaged Goods Re-Stitched” can be found on Amazon.com. For ‘HUMOR SOUP FOR THE SOUL’ speaking engagements & workshops, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org