'I doubt Kirin minds,' as it was unlikely to be able to sell the products anyhow, said Shinji Nishimura, who watched the wave and the looters from his warehouse nearby and suggested they had in fact done Kirin a favor. 'Everyone helped, and now everything has been cleaned up.'
When a tsunami blasted through Kirin Brewery's seaside facilities here, it tipped over giant beer-storage tanks and spread a blanket of beer bottles, barrels and other goods across the port. The beverages that spilled out were then hit a second time: by a surge of thirsty residents.
Eric Bellman/The Wall Street Journal目击者称，灾难发生后近一周的时间内，人们步行、开车和骑自行车到麒麟公司位于仙台工厂附近的街上拿走公司的产品，直到那里什么都不剩或者只剩下零星几个瓶子和罐子。
Witnesses say hundreds of people carted off beer, coffee, juice and other goods that had escaped Kirin's massive warehouse when the tsunami waters receded.
'All kinds of people came and were taking things away, they kept coming until everything was gone,' on Saturday, said Makoto Igarashi, who manages a gas station across the street from the Kirin brewery. 'Some even tried to enter the Kirin grounds, but the guards stopped them.'
More than 10 days after the earthquake and waves hit this city facing the Pacific Ocean on Japan's northeastern coast, most victims of the twin disasters have handled the crisis with extraordinary restraint. Despite the lack of food, water, medicine and gasoline, few Japanese in the hardest-hit areas have complained, and there has been little sign of looting.
However, as more stories of struggle and survival trickle out of smashed seaside communities, there is some evidence that the chaotic circumstances may have proved too much of a temptation for a small minority. Most of the looting incidents appear to target necessities in tight supply after the disaster, such as food and gasoline, rather than durable goods.
In at least two convenience stores of Ishinomaki up the coast from Sendai where waves pushed cars into the front windows and cleared products from the shelves, ATMs were pried open by someone with tools to remove the cash within. Other convenience stores that survived the waves also had their front doors broken by people desperate for food and water.
In one deserted self-service noodle shop in Sendai, a food-ticket vending machine had also been forced open to get at the cash inside. Nearby, holes had been punched into the gas tanks of cars that had been flipped upside down, apparently by people unable to wait for gasoline stations to reopen.
Eric Bellman/The Wall Street Journal一台在石卷7-11便利店的自动提款机被损毁。在仙台市的一家空无一人的自助面馆，一个食品券自动出售机也被强行打开，里面的现金被人拿走。附近，被掀翻的汽车的油箱被钻了洞，很显然是那些无法等到加油站重新开张的人所为。
Japan's National Police Agency acknowledges there has been some looting, but says it does not yet have data on how widespread the phenomenon is.
'There hasn't been many reports, I would guess only in the dozens,' Nobuhiro Kato, a chief of the National Police Agency, said. But 'there must be more lootings that are not reported up to police,' he said.
Some people may be ignoring looting acts, he said, because they feel they can't stop people in such difficult circumstances from doing it. Mr. Kato said Tokyo and some other prefectural police plan to send more patrol cars to affected areas to prevent further problems.
'If we keep ignoring such acts, the place is going to turn into a lawless area,' he said.
Looting is common after some disasters. New Orleans slipped into a state of near-anarchy after Hurricane Katrina, and there were scattered reports of theft in areas affected by the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, including villagers arrested with trucks full of refrigerators, furniture and washing machines in Sri Lanka. Japan experienced only scattered reports of looting after one of its most recent disasters, the Kobe earthquake in 1995.
But while Japan has escaped serious crime problems so far this time, the emerging reports of unlawful activity have underscored the need for authorities to further speed up relief in affected areas, where some 318,000 people remain in shelters and freezing temperatures are adding to the misery. The number of people dead and missing from the quake as of Tuesday evening was 22,641, of which 9,080 are confirmed dead.
Aid supplies have moved more quickly in recent days, as authorities have cleared blocked roadways. But relief agencies say they remain concerned that aid isn't getting through to everyone, especially people who were able to stay in their homes and as a result aren't getting access to supplies being distributed at evacuation shelters.
Some cases thought to be looting turned out not to be. At some evacuation centers, residents have spread rumors that gangs of robbers were breaking into homes and cars. But police said in the heavily damaged state of Miyagi that they have investigated more than 200 robbery calls only to find that it is almost always the actual owner of the home or car that is trying to break in.
Miyagi prefecture police said that while they have arrested some troublemakers, looting has not been an issue and also has not been their top priority. State police spokesman Yuzuru Honda said he could not disclose the number of people that had been arrested since the earthquake.
He said the police had not been notified about any problems around the Kiring Brewery but that any people taking drinks are breaking the law. 'If you find something that has been lost you have to return it to the nearest police station,' he said.
Kirin said it could not comment on what happened near its plant, as its employees have been too busy trying to figure out how they might restart operations of the brewery, which accounts for around 8% of its beer-brewing capacity. Kirin also makes other drinks which were stacked up in its warehouse.
'The company is still investigating' if any of its products were stolen off the streets, said Kirin's Tokyo-based spokesman, Shinya Izumi.
Kirin had not even started clearing out its main gate on Tuesday. The streets around the factory smelled like beer, with empty bottles and cans of beer and other beverages everywhere: on railroad tracks, stuck in trees and floating in the nearby river.
Wood pallets were caught in the line of short pine trees that flank the front of the brewery. They had been pushed across the Kirin grounds by a wave so strong that it destroyed a nearby road and pushed in the walls across Kirin's warehouse, which runs for close to five blocks.
Two guards patrolling Kirin's facilities said they have tried to stop anyone they saw taking Kirin products but it had been next to impossible to prevent people from going after what had spilled onto the public streets.
'If I see someone stopping their car around here, I try to stop them,' said one of the guards at Kirin's main gate who would not give his name as he is not authorized to speak for the company. 'But there's nothing much we can do if they are out there.'
Witnesses who saw the tsunami hit Kirin's facilities and Sendai's port said the waves carried an array of Kirin property inland, including beer, kegs, pallets and even huge square bags of hops and wheat.
Around 24 hours after the wave hit, the water receded and people started showing up, said witnesses. There were men and women and even children, witnesses said, gathering bottles, cans and boxes and carting them off in their cars, on foot and on their bicycles. While there are almost no intact, full bottles or cans left, a few people were still mulling around the opened containers and piles of bottles scattered around the brewery on Tuesday. One man walked away with a six-pack of beer. Some neighbors said they weren't bothered by the behavior.