We’ve just had our first typhoon of the year. Nothing serious, but this entire week has been so bloody humid and wet. This is typical of Japan’s wet season (tsuyu 梅雨) and its the absolutely worst. After living here for four years, I’ve yet to get accustomed to the country’s summer climate. And I don’t think I ever will. From June to September, Japan experiences everything; increasing humidity, heatwaves, tropical storms, typhoons and migrating jellyfish.
Yesterday was absolute nightmare. The trains were delayed by forty minutes, even though it wasn’t particularly raining hard. I missed the school bus, which normally gives me a lift up the hill to the school. So I arrived as if I’d just climbed Mt.Fuji and trekked through the Amazon Rainforest ; a sweaty, wet mess. The teacher greeted me with “It’s a bit hot today, right?”, I sarcastically replied with “Ah, no. I’m fine, thanks”.
It’s a stereotype, but a genuine observation that British people love to comment on the weather. In fact, talking about the weather is probably the easiest way to start a conversation with anyone. We even ask the students “How’s the weather?” every single class, even though nobody gives a flying toss. Yes, here in Japan it’s no different. My daily conversations with the Japanese teachers often begins with “The weather’s really nice today” or “It’s too humid and hot”. I guess it’s a subject that everyone can make a simple observation no matter your level of Japanese or English comprehension.
Today was slightly different from the usual remarks as “Super Typhoon” Chaba landed on Japan’s mainland. During the months of August, September and October, Japan and the rest of East Asia are bombarded by tropical storms and typhoons spawning from the Pacific Ocean. As a British person, heavy rain, strong winds and grey clouds are a formality that we’ve simply adapted to, not that watching the BBC news or reading the Daily Mail would suggest. So when it comes to typhoons, earthquakes, landslides and heavy snowfall, it’s all a bit foreign to me. But I’ve managed to survive so far. I think that’s in part to Japan’s well-organised and efficient coverage, warning and response systems. For example, I occasionally get the local alarm/P.A system screaming about the impeding doom that awaits us from earthquakes, typhoons and the Autumn festival taking place on the weekend. There’s even a detailed log of all the tropical storms on the “2016 Pacific Typhoon” wikipage.
Of course like the Daily Mail and the BBC, “extreme” weather is the source of 24/7 news courage. Back home, reporters standing in the rain, or in a puddle, or at the bottom of some slippery stairs have been deemed to be genuine journalism. It’s exactly the same story in Japan. Flashy graphics, holograms and cute, cartoon mascots attempt to inform the populace about the dangers and horrors of 60mph winds. Television studios have also implemented sidebars that give live updates on the typhoon during their scheduled programming. Watching a period, samurai drama with dramatic pictures of flying debris and the words “SUPER TYPHOON” plastered on the side, is quite a sight. The worst has to be the miserable reporters standing outside the studio offices in Tokyo, while light drizzle starts to fall. Meanwhile the typhoon lies wait in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Utterly pointless, and further showcases Tokyo’s omnipresence in everything Japanese related.
Of course, with aggressive winds and heavy downpours, schools are required to take precautions and inform their students and parents of possible closures or safety implementations. I work inwhat happens to be the toughest educational district on the planet. Here the bosses are not ones to close their doors for some mere “Super Typhoon” or three metres of snowfall. The sight of a student battling against the elements is seen as a sign of determination, strength and maturity, instead of the health and safety nightmare it would be back home. I myself don’t have the sheer determination and willpower to wade through flooded streets and dodge oncoming debris just to get to work. Understandably, neither do the teachers or students. This morning, the majority of the teaching staff were expecting a day off, only to find themselves at school at 7:30 preparing lessons. Meanwhile the students gazed out the windows, analysing every detail of the weather and wind speed. Some of them enquired about the possibility of closing school early due to the distressing nature of the clouds. The school principal wasn’t having any of it, and we were amusingly ordered to close the curtains.
In the end, it turned out that with all the super-computers and digital simulations, the Japanese Meteorological Agency incorrectly predicted the typhoon’s path. Thus the “Super Typhoon” didn’t really affect the Hiroshima area. At 2:00pm, it’s predicted arrival, it had turned into a cloudy and slightly breezy day. In fact, I’m currently finishing this blog post on the train, and the weather is warm, mid-twenties, and the sun is shining. “Bloody weather.”
Update: Unfortunately news has broken of storm-related casualties in South Korea.