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‘Stockpile toilet paper!’ Japanese urged to buy more tissues to avoid being wiped out in a quake

Published time: September 01, 2014 16:10
Reuters / Jorge Silva

Reuters / Jorge Silva

Cautious Japanese are making sure they won’t be literally caught with their pants down next time an earthquake rumbles into town. They are being told to stock up on toilet paper, as well as essentials like food and water.

The government and toilet paper manufacturers companies are joining forces with the PR slogan “Let’s stockpile toilet paper!” as part of Disaster Prevention Day in the earthquake-prone country.

“After running out of toilet paper, people start using tissue, and that could clog up precious workable toilets,” said Toshiyuki Hashimoto, an official in charge of paper products.

Significantly, 41 percent of Japanese toilet paper is produced in the nation’s most earthquake-prone areas, such as the Shizuoka prefecture in central Japan, where there is more than an 80 percent chance of a major offshore quake in the next 30 years.

Based on what happened after the 2011 tsunami, which crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, killed thousands of people, left tens of thousands homeless and caused $36.4 billion worth of damage – a lack of toilet paper also became a serious issue.

Hoarding toilet paper also occurred during the oil crisis of 1973, with one 83-year-old woman breaking her leg in the frenzy of people grabbing as many rolls as possible.

Toilet paper was quickly added to the list of items needed in an emergency, along with food, water, first aid kits and portable toilets under the government’s Basic Disaster Management Plan.

“Along with food, toilet paper was among the first items that disappeared from the store shelves during the disaster, even outside disaster-hit areas,” said Hashimoto, the government’s toilet paper tsar.

Japan takes being prepared for disasters seriously, especially since the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami, and hundreds of thousands of people take part in the annual Sept. 1 Disaster Prevention Day drill.

The instructions to stock up comes as no surprise because of the strong tradition of toilet etiquette in Japan.

The Japanese have Toilegami, which is origami for toilet paper, where some up market Japanese hotels fold toilet paper like table napkins. The Japanese have also invented the so-called Enterprise electronic toilet, which has a button called the “sound princess”, which plays a little tune to conceal the embarrassing noises you might be making.