Last night, October 12th, Japan experienced the worst typhoon to hit the country in almost 60 years. Many cities and neighborhoods in the Kanto and Tohoku regions suffered great damage, with multiple people reported dead or missing. Millions of people across dozens of prefectures were issued evacuation advisories ahead of harsh winds, flooding rivers, and landslides. This is the story told from the perspective of one student in a small apartment just outside of Tokyo who’s had a lot of thoughts about his first typhoon experience.
In the days leading up to the storm, I went down to the local grocery store and convenience store to stockpile food I would need, since I knew I wouldn’t be able to go outside and many shops would be closed. The night before the typhoon was expected to land I figured it wouldn’t hurt to make one last stop by a store just in case, even though I had everything I needed. The shelves at the convenience store had been completely cleared out of many food items and water as people scrambled to buy essentials before imminent disaster struck. After one last fun night out with some friends in Ikebukuro, I went to bed knowing I’d be in for a treat when I woke up.
The first emergency alert that came through to my phone at around 10:30 in the morning on Saturday was for the citizens of Edogawa, the next city over, advising those living near the Arakawa river to evacuate or seek shelter in a sturdy and high place. Because of our proximity to Edogawa and location by a river that had the potential to overflow, I assumed it was only a matter of time before we received an excavation advisory as well. I began packing a small carry-on suitcase with clothes, food, and other supplies so that I would be ready in case we were required to leave immediately. Nervous thoughts swarmed my head while this was all happening. I knew where the nearest shelter was (the middle school a few blocks away) and that there would be people to help us in any way they could, but I couldn’t help but fear the worst about my safety. As a California kid, I’d never experienced a tropical storm such as this—I could deal with earthquakes, drought, and wildfires just fine, but this typhoon was uncharted territory.
Throughout the morning and early afternoon, several more alerts came through, with only one pertaining directly to Urayasu in Chiba where I live. The level 3 advisory meant that the elderly should evacuate as soon as possible, while everyone else should stay on alert and prepare for possible evacuation. With my suitcase packed and phone charging in case of a power outage, I couldn’t do much else besides continue to complete homework while keeping one eye on the news at all times. I felt like a sitting duck waiting for something horrible to strike.
Hours passed without any evacuation advisory or anything extremely eventful taking place. I had heard from various news sources and information circulating through group chats with friends that the typhoon was due to make landfall at around 18:00, but fifteen minutes after the hour and it still had yet to make an appearance. Instead, I felt a strange trembling where I was perched at my desk and took off my headphones, wondering if the ferocity of the wind was causing the entire building to physically shake. It reminded me vaguely of the earthquakes that used to occur back home, so I went online to search for answers. My suspicions were confirmed: on top of being hit by a tornado earlier in the morning and the impending typhoon, an earthquake had struck Chiba. At this point, it was almost comical how we had been battered by these natural disasters one after the other—but not quite comical enough to keep me from worrying for my safety.
At this time, the winds were lashing aggressively outside my window and rain was pelting the street below. Every now and again I heard the sound of passing cars, and I couldn’t fathom how people were still continuing to drive in this weather. At one point I even heard loud voices and looked out the window to see two middle-aged women struggling against the wind and chatting about the weather conditions. At around 19:00, I checked Twitter for the umpteenth time for any updates that might’ve occurred while I was hunched over my homework and found out that the typhoon had made landfall in a city called Izu in Shizuoka, which is northwest of Urayasu. From then on, it was a waiting game. After all, it was only a matter of time before the storm made its way towards us.
At 19:30 the sound of the wind had become even louder as it whipped at my window, and I sat at my desk with my headphones on, half expecting the glass to shatter at any moment. Each gust shook and rattled the apartment with frightening force. I’d drawn back the curtains to observe the state of things outside, and each time I glanced out the window I saw trees bending and swaying, looking as if they were barely managing to stay upright. I repeated to myself over and over again that everything would be fine, and I continued to check for updates on Twitter and message my parents about the situation.
By about 22:00 things had gone oddly quiet outside and I assumed that either the typhoon had passed over completely or we were in the eye of the storm. I stayed up another hour to monitor how things were going and, when it appeared that nothing else was going to happen, I decided to finally get some rest and go to sleep. Despite not setting foot outside the entire day, the anxiety from anticipating the typhoon left me exhausted and I wanted to put it all behind me.
Having emerged from the other side of the catastrophe, I can now say confidently that it was half exhilarating and half terrifying being in such a position. The pure unpredictability of the storm made it difficult to find a sense of ease, but I felt adrenaline coursing through me for the very same reason: I had no idea what was going to happen. I’m keeping everyone affected in my thoughts and feeling very thankful I’m safe enough to be writing this.
Long story short: don’t mess with typhoons.
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