Singaporeans hunkered down for typhoon in Tokyo

Madam Samsiah Suliman was in Tokyo for a a pop-up food event when the Japanese capital was battered by the worst storm in decades at the weekend.
Madam Samsiah Suliman was in Tokyo for a a pop-up food event when the Japanese capital was battered by the worst storm in decades at the weekend.

TOKYO • Singaporeans who were in Tokyo last Saturday when the Japanese capital was battered by the worst storm in decades hunkered down and stayed indoors on the weatherman's advice.

Madam Samsiah Suliman, whose satay business Jumain Sataysfaction was taking part in a Taste Of Singapore pop-up food event, told The Straits Times that she knew the typhoon was serious when she realised that her Japanese friends were also nervous.

The 51-year-old went on a shopping binge at a supermarket.

"We don't have disasters in Singapore and so the question was how much food should I stock up," said Madam Samsiah, who was in Tokyo with her husband; they returned to Singapore yesterday after nearly two weeks in the Japanese capital.

"Everybody was buying so much that you begin to worry if you have sufficient supplies. Maybe we overdid it, but it was better to be safe."

Shelves at many supermarkets and hardware stores were wiped clean of supplies, including groceries, bottled water, masking tape, batteries and gas cylinders, by last Friday.

The storm left a trail of devastation in its wake, with figures last night showing at least 75 people killed, 16 missing and 228 injured.

Besides stocking up on food, Madam Samsiah filled up the bathtub and other vessels in her rented apartment with water, in case the supply was cut off.

She also fully charged her power bank and other electrical devices in case of a blackout, and downloaded the Japan National Tourism Organisation's official multi-language disaster application Safety Tips.


Equally prepared was heritage conservation expert Johannes Widodo, who was in Tokyo for meetings and a symposium.

Dr Widodo said that his experience living in Tokyo from 1992 to 1996 as a doctorate student at the University of Tokyo came in handy.

He experienced two major incidents in 1995: the Kobe earthquake as well as the Tokyo subway sarin gas attack.

He was appointed the emergency response leader for the other symposium delegates, including participants from the Philippines, China and France. They stocked up on emergency food supplies and geared up for a possible blackout and disruption to the water supply, while staying indoors from last Friday night until Sunday morning.

Somewhat less prepared was Mr Ian Fun, 31, who was in Tokyo to attend a former colleague's wedding on Sunday. That went off without a hitch, though a friend whose flight was cancelled could not attend.

The narrative designer at video games company Ubisoft had been staying at business hotel APA in Shinjuku. But he said: "Room service and housekeeping were suspended because there were far too few people on staff. The restaurant also stopped serving food."

While he had stocked up his mini-fridge with drinks and snacks, this was not enough, prompting him to briefly try to leave his hotel for a quick beef bowl dinner last Saturday. "But I high-tailed it back to the hotel after realising that the shop was closed, and the wind and rain suddenly picked up."


It was also the first typhoon experience for Ms Lee Kah Hui, 23, who moved to Tokyo in April for a master's programme at the University of Tokyo. She stocked up on enough food to last three to five days, and also stored water and fully charged her power banks, following tips conveyed in the Japanese media.

"It was my first time experiencing a typhoon so I was quite anxious upon learning of how the strongest one in a while was going to hit Tokyo," she said.

A minor earthquake that shook her apartment last Saturday evening also unsettled her, as did the rattling of the windows from the strong winds and heavy rain.

Walter Sim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 16, 2019, with the headline 'Singaporeans hunkered down for typhoon in Tokyo'. Print Edition | Subscribe