When panic buying started here in Tokyo I went straight for tinned meat, fruit, fish and vegetables, peanuts, peanut butter, and chocolate bars. Looking around for other more Japanese survival foods, I also stocked up on boil in the bag curry, beef jerky and dried squid. At home, I probably would have gone for baked beans and Kendal Mint Cake. Luckily I wasn’t battling anyone for any of the things I aimed for, as everyone else had baskets full of pot noodles, natto, milk, bread and water. Breakfast cereals also ran out fairly quickly, as did some brands of bottled tea, along with nappies, toilet paper, tissues, battery-powered mobile phone chargers, and other non-food items.
Of all of those, pot noodles is probably the most surprising to me, if only because the predicted power cuts would have left many people without the hot water to make them, as indeed has been the case in the worst hit areas (although I know from my own board school days that chewing on raw pot noodles and dipping your finger into the various powders does have its own strange appeal, a bit like the cookie dough fetish that some people have). My first thought was that it is a comfort food, which is why I would have had a basket full of baked beans back in the UK, but I’ve read elsewhere that “curry rice” is the baked beans of Japanese cuisine, and that didn’t seem to run out in any shops. Perhaps it is that pot noodles can easily be made from just hot water, e.g. (nearly) boiled on top of the paraffin stove, whereas most Japanese nowadays have no idea how to make rice without a rice cooker. I have a feeling it wasn’t such a logical reaction though.
I think my own choices of survival foods come from my camping and hiking days, including some ideas of what you need if you get stuck on top of a mountain that probably came from someone else’s half-remembered boy scout skills. I wonder if pot noodles have a similar back to basics feeling for Japanese people.
I do also wonder why anyone needed to buy eighteen rolls of toilet roll. Could they all rely on their washlettes so much that the idea of the electricity to run them puts them in an irrational panic and leaves them with no clear idea of how much toilet paper one would need when left without a spray function??
Natto is also a strange one (as well as a strange thing to eat in general, in my humble opinion). It doesn’t keep long, especially if the fridge went off during a power cut. Again, could be a comfort food. It could also be the connection to breakfast, a meal which panics us or if it seems we will lack a proper one.