Greetings from wet Japan. It is the rainy season – which in fact has not felt that ‘rainy’ in comparison to England. My 14 years in England has taught me that nothing beats England when it comes to rain. England may not be world class when it comes to the World Cup but it certainly wins the ‘rain’ competition hands down. So, in comparison, the rain during Osaka’s rainy season so far has felt as plentiful as a mosquito emptying its half empty bladder. Until now! A powerful typhoon, Neoguri, hit the South of Japan, Okinawa yesterday and is heading this way. So, it is looking like it’ll be this wind-speeds-of-up-to-250/kph-Typhoon that will bring the rain that I’ve so been missing in the extremely hot and humid June-July climate of Osaka.
When we moved to Japan we knew that there were typhoons here, but because ‘typhoon’ for some reason doesn’t sound as bad as a ‘hurricane’ I was not too concerned about them. I might be extremely stupid, but I am not too worried about typhoons, hurricanes or cyclones – whichever you want to call them. Perhaps it is because I am from Finland – a country with a less than perfect climate. You see, we don’t have hurricanes in Finland but we do have some pretty cold winters. I’ve experienced minus 35 degrees; a temperature in which your eyelashes freeze together. Minus 35 degrees is so cold that I’ve had my car’s gear stick freeze in gear, regardless of the fact that the car’s engine was plugged into the mains to defrost it. In case you Brits are wondering: you leave your car in gear in Finland and don’t usually leave the hand brake on because the brake can freeze. Furthermore, there are areas in Finland, namely north of Finland, where the sun doesn’t come up for several weeks during the winter. Even down south, where I am from, you only get a couple of hours of daylight per day in December. So I’ve got used to some pretty terrible conditions. And my husband is from Manchester. In my opinion, Neoguri sounds like a pussycat in comparison to some characters you encounter in Manchester. So I am hoping we’ll be just fine.
In any case, I went to work yesterday and found that my colleagues greeted me not with ‘Good Morning!’ but with ‘Typhoon is coming! They kindly briefed me on the survival techniques in relation to the Japanese rainy season’s big bad wolf.
Survival tip number 1: Don’t go on the balcony.
My colleagues know that we live on the 24th floor of our building, so they were concerned that we might be blown off the balcony. They must think I am a bit dim to give such obvious advice, but as soon as I got home I told our au pair not to go out on the balcony with (or without) our 3-year old daughter when the typhoon arrives. He probably thought the same as me when my colleagues gave me that spiel, but you just have to state the obvious sometimes, just to be on the safe side -that is, this side of the balcony rail.
Survival tip number 2: Don’t go and try to take photos of the river or the sea.
Don’t worry, I won’t. I’m not on Instagram so there is no need to get killed when taking photos of 14 metre waves. I’d rather stay home and have a cup of tea – or a glass of wine – while sitting in an empty bathtub with my daughter and au pair just in case Neoguri is getting the better of our apartment block (luckily, my husband and our son are currently in England, so we won’t have to squeeze into the bathtub all five of us). But, this reminds me, I must send the au pair to get some wine and food supplies this morning so that we can see it through the typhoon without having to venture outside during the storm. Our au pair is excited, not about the shopping but about the typhoon. Unlike me, he is on Instagram and is gagging to get some cool photos to upload.
Survival tip number 3: Listen to the news and don’t come to work if the local government has advised people to stay in.
This is easier said than done. You see, I don’t know Japanese beyond your everyday essentials like ‘Good morning’ ‘Thank you’ and ‘See you later’. I won’t understand any potential warnings on TV or radio. Ok. Every so often we get a warning in English on TV (see photos) but these alerts just appear at random so it would be quite tricky to rely on those in the morning when determining whether I need to get ready for work or not. I think I’ll have to ring my colleague to get the latest news in English first thing tomorrow morning.
This reminds me of England. Pretty much every winter England is hit with ‘extreme weather’, which, from a Finnish perspective, seems like three flakes of snow. It nevertheless brings the whole country to its knees: public transport is at a standstill, supermarkets run out of food, and schools and workplaces are closed. I can understand that a quarter of an inch of snow on the ground it is a natural disaster for a country that is not used to it. But given that during most of the 14 winters that I spent in England we had snow at least for a couple of days I think the government could be a little more prepared. In Japan the situation is somewhat different. They are well prepared over here, but a powerful Typhoon is a different kettle of fish to half an inch of snow.
Survival tip number 4: Don’t bother trying to use your umbrella.
This is actually something that a Typhoon novice like myself could have gone and done. Not because I didn’t realize that umbrellas can’t really take 250 km/hour winds, but because I wouldn’t have really thought about it. So, yesterday I went and bought a rain jacket. It looked ok in the packet, but I don’t think it is very flattering on me (see photo). In fact, I think I can safely say that it is the least flattering piece of clothing I own. If you ever see me wearing anything less flattering than that white, slightly see through, bin liner please tell me to go and burn that garment immediately.
Survival tip number 5: Don’t position yourself near anything that can fall down in the heavy winds and kill you.
As I’ve understood it, in most places in Japan it is relatively unlikely that a typhoon, even a Jabba the Hut of typhoons like Neoguri, kills people. That is, unless you decide to take shelter somewhere you shouldn’t. I mean, camping may not be the best form of accommodation during a typhoon. Similarly, it may not be advisable to go and park yourself next to a wobbly traffic sign, mess of a power cable (which are everywhere in Osaka, see photo) or a bad example of DIY.
So, my family’s plan for the next couple of days is to stay indoors, away from anything that can kill us, and make it through the typhoon so that we can experience our first Japanese earthquake.