Five years ago, Rex Murphy of the CBC’s National delivered the best ode I’ve heard to the national strengths of character revealed as Japan coped with the earthquake/tsunami/nuclear crisis on March 11, 2011:
“The Day the Earth Moved,” my personal essay about the Great East Japan Earthquake/Tsunami/Nuclear Crisis from a Tokyo expat’s perspective, will be included in Adventures of a Lifetime: Travel Tales from Around the World, an anthology from World Traveler Press. Publication date is December 15, 2014.
5:30 am Tuesday Tokyo time and all is quiet around here. The cicadas are chirping away again, and a pair of chickadees are having a domestic dispute in the bushes outside my open study window. Despite Vongfong being described as the worst storm so far this typhoon season, and some real damage, injuries, and home evacuations in other parts of Japan, Vongfong seems to have been little more than a heavy rain storm here in the Big Sushi.
Today’s weather forecast calls for partly cloudy and a high of 26 degrees Celsius. Back to business…
I’d write more, but I expect trains are running and I have to get to school…
(Update: here in Nishi Tokyo, the storm peaked around 10:30am with a few hair-raising, house-shaking gusts of rain and wind, but by 11:30 all was quiet and the sun starting to come out. I went out to
forage among the wreckage and fight tooth and claw with other scavengers for… buy garlic consomme bread bread for lunch. Seriously, R. made it safely to work in Ginza, and I haven’t yet heard of any real damage or injuries from other parts of Tokyo. looks like Tokyo’s luck held strong through yet another potential catastrophe…)
… and then, right around 10:30am, the rain started to rage and the wind to kick up. Not sure how strong the gusts are, but for now I’ve still got the door from my study to the driveway open.
(Update: 9am, and this should be the worst of it. Heavy rain conitnues, but none of the damaging winds we were led to expect. Trains are running with some delays; R. has gone to work. I’m at the computer, awaiting any calls from students who have questions on the assignments posted to the class Moodle pages.)
5 am and Typhoon Phanfone is still little more than a persistent rain here in Tokyo. However, the worst of it is yet to come: Phanfone’s touchdown is expected later this morning, around 9 am.
According to Dr. Jeff Masters’ blog on Weather Underground, the typhoon is weakening rapidly, and may be no more than a Category 1 storm by the time it does arrive in Tokyo. However, according to The Weather Channel website, The Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) is anticipating sustained winds of 80 mph with gusts to 115 mph at the time it reaches us, which would make it the strongest wind on record (the sustained wind record is 69.3 mph, recorded in a typhoon on Sept. 1, 1938; the strongest wind gust is 104.5 mph, recorded the same day.)
Apparently warnings have also been issued for local tornados. I’ve heard some sustained thunder — apparently a warning sign for tornadoes — but so far nothing more than that.
Update: The Headmistress has just closed school for the day. Looks like I’ll be teaching virtual classes from home!
Trains, as of 6 am, are mostly running on time according to this timetable.
Let’s see what 9 am brings!
At 3,776 meters (12,389 feet), Fujisan’s peak is the highest in Japan.
Is it an active volcano? The best answer to that question may be “Yes, but…”. Apparently, an active volcano is one which has erupted within the last 10,000 years, and is expected to erupt again. Fujisan last erupted in 1707, making it a prime candidate for active status. However, there are two kinds of active volcanoes: erupting and dormant. Ontakesan, the volcano which tragically erupted last weekend, is an example of the former; Fujisan would be an example of the latter.
“Wait a minute,” sez you. “Does that mean Fujisan is expected to erupt again?”
“The short answer is, ‘Yes,'” sez I. No-one knows exactly when, of course, but the Japan Meteorological Agency keeps Fujisan on its list of 47 volcanoes to be monitored 24/7. at least one volcanologist, a retired professot at Ryukyu University, predicts that Fujisan will erupt by 2015.
Almost one week after the initial eruption, according to media reports the death toll on Ontakesan has reached 47 with 20 climbers still missing in what Asahi Shinbun and others have called “the deadliest eruption in Japan in the postwar period.” Others are still missing, but rain and volcano activity prevent rescuers and helicopters from searching the area.
The New York Times carries a first-hand report of the eruption from mountain guide Gaku Harada. “I thought it was the end of the world,” he’s reported as saying.
Former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi used the Ontakesan eruption to strengthen his argument against nuclear energy. The Asahi Shinbun reports him as saying “Even experts say they never expected Mount Ontakesan to erupt. Unexpected incidents can occur at any time… Earthquakes, tsunami and eruptions occur all over Japan so it must not have nuclear power plants.”