October 8, 2009

The first thing you notice is the clouds. They roll in ominously, but not in a cliche spewing thunder sort of way. These clouds come in normally and hang around like your average cloud is prone to do. Then the rain comes. It starts as a drizzle but picks up during the course of the day. And keeps falling and falling and falling. After three days you start wondering if you’ll ever get to ride a bike again before spring. The streets become deserted which, in a place like Nabari, gives everything a very ghost town feel. Go to the grocery store and not only do the checkout lines become a breeze, but some items seem drastically reduced in price. Don’t know if that has anything to do with the weather, but I’ll take a good deal on steak any day.

Typhoon Melor hit Japan today and it’s apparently one of the strongest to make landfall in a longtime. It has been the hot topic of discussion all week at school – teachers come up to me and tell me about the typhoon and then, to make me feel good about it, share all sorts of horror stories of yesteryear’s typhoons. Houses floating away and people drowning. Scary, but not unwarranted – Melor wasn’t just going to pass by Mie, but barrel right through it.

The TV news also did a great job hyping this up. Kind of. Coverage of Melor didn’t seem too insane before yesterday, a few segments on the news and warnings for the area scrolling by on top of the screen. But today! Clearly a result of Japanese media “east coast bias,” the amount of coverage devoted to this goes up as it gets closer to Tokyo. I swear one channel hasn’t broken from typhoon coverage all day. This means plenty of weather charts, video of rain and the requisite “reporter standing out in the storm wearing a poncho” live report.

Most of this coverage meant little to me as I’d already seen the typhoon the night before. The rain kept falling when, around 9 P.M., the wind went wild. It was blowing hard enough to make a sound I’d expect in a tundra somewhere. And it didn’t relent. For the next…oh, I don’t know, eight hours, the annoying combination of heavy pit-er-patting mixed with crazy wind filled my apartment.

Then in the morning, the wind stopped. The rain weakened, and soon was gone. The sun is currently shining and Nabari is experiencing it’s best weather in like a week. The typhoon ended up being…not bad at all. I’d hate to be outside during one, but I wasn’t fearing for my life like I might during a hurricane. The only part of my life adversely affected by the typhoon was my sleep (I didn’t get any). A walk around town revealed no major damage, so Nabari survived just fine. The lead-up to the typhoon, with the eerily empty streets and continual downpour, ended up being a lot more memorable than the actual typhoon. For my first Japanese natural disaster, this seemed pretty tame. That’s probably a good thing.

Well, not everything made it out OK. My drying rack tipped over. The name tag on my mailbox almost came off. And my umbrella, which I foolishly left hanging outside, got ripped apart. It’s almost impressive how deconstructed it is until you realize it’s a cheap plastic one that costs less than a chicken sandwich at the convenience store and doesn’t do a good job of keeping you dry. So no big loss.

I also got the day off from school. OK!

(Japanese Fun Fact #23: Teachers, real teachers, still have to go to school during situations like this. They just can’t catch a break.)

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