I just came across this forum, and think it's a great thing to discuss. We were in Japan last year during the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster of March 2011. My husband and I had arrived in early January, and were supposed to be here (we're in Japan again) through the end of March. I ended up flying home eight days after the quake, and my husband was sent out to sea to evacuate/continue work on the aircraft carrier.
It was interesting to be here post-earthquake. Our area shook a bit and lost power until the next morning, but there was no damage. Despite the little damage to our area, we began to see repercussions immediately. Cell phones stopped working. Taxis were scarce, since a huge number of people rely on trains to get to/from work, and the trains stopped running right away. Many people were forced to camp out in their offices for a day or two. My mom (who was on a 2-week vacation to visit us) and I were on a train, but fortunately, we were in a less-populated area and were able to get a taxi. The ride took us four hours to get back to our apartment, since all freeways were shut down. That taxi ride was not cheap, so it was a good thing we had plenty of Yen on-hand.
During the power outages, you had to pay cash or you were out of luck if you wanted to buy anything---if the store was open at all!
The grocery store shelves were quickly depleted. Bottled water and ramen noodles were the first to go. Shortly after that, bread, meat, and other staples disappeared. The stores were never replenished in the eight days we were there after the earthquake.
Lines for gas/petrol were L-O-N-G. Many stations ran out of gas and closed, and those that had some were PACKED! Lines approaching the station ran up the street and back down. Prices went up.
In an effort to conserve power, many stores closed for business by 4pm. All escalators stopped running, although elevators were still available for people who needed the assistance.
Rolling blackouts started. That was fine during daylight hours, but after dark, you were left in the dark unless you had lots of flashlights with fresh batteries and/or candles. Both of these types of supplies were difficult to find. Of course, you may also get cold when the power is out for 3-4 hours at night, so extra blankets or warm clothes would have come in handy.
So, things I learned from experiencing the Japan earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis:
1) Have cash on hand so you can make purchases when systems are down or power is out.
2) Have at least two weeks' worth of food and water on hand for everyone in the house (including pets!). In Washington State, we have a 3-day emergency preparedness campaign going on. In Japan, the grocery stores didn't even get new supplies in the first eight days after the earthquake. I don't know when they did, since we left after that.
3) Have a few days' of emergency supplies (food, water, medications, sanitary supplies, etc.) on hand at work or in your car, in case you're stranded.
4) Keep a full tank of gas (or close to it) in your car. Gas/petrol may not always be available.
5) Be prepared for power outages with flashlights and batteries and/or candles. Have blankets or a way to keep warm.
I'm sure there are other lessons to be learned from my experience, but this is what jumps out at me. Even having lived through it, we still not prepared. Thank you for starting this topic. It's a good reminder for us all!