Japan is very prone to natural disasters like earthquakes, tsunamis, and typhoons. While most of us in affected areas keep calm like the Japanese do, we still need to be prepared. Okinawa is very typhoon prone and I know a few things about coasting through them gracefully. Luckily, the buildings in Okinawa are made of concrete and built to withstand the raging winds of a typhoon. Some of the houses on mainland are built for fighting off typhoons and others aren’t. It just depends on your situation and whether or not you live in an affected area.
Since we live in a digital age, I think it goes without saying, don’t be stupid. If you see a typhoon coming on the news, don’t ignore it. If you are given the order to evacuate, do it. Even minor ones can cause enormous damage or death. Typhoons have caused landslides, flooding, and panic. The cars in Japan are small and I’ve seen them flip over, I’ve witnessed countless accidents, and U.S. military serviceman have died because they got swept away in the after waves of the typhoon.
You know the typhoon is coming. So what do you do? For your first typhoon it will be inevitably scary and, I suggest you stay with a friend. The howling winds and strong rain can scare you if you’ve never experienced something like this before so here’s how to prepare for typhoons in Japan.
1. Get Food
Go to the grocery store and get all essentials, especially water. I usually stock up on the 4 liter bottle and 2 liter bottles. You never know if you’re going to run out of fresh water. Buy dry and canned food, snacks, a flashlight, batteries, and candles because you also never know if the power is going to go out and you’ll be stuck without electricity.
Many people opt to charge all their electronics before the typhoon like their cellphones, laptops, tablets, etc to keep them busy through the long hours of being cooped up. As I mentioned before, people charge all their electronics before the typhoon to keep occupied. Others choose to get card games, a book, write or clean. It’s best to keep occupied so you don’t feel like you’re going crazy.
3. Bring in all loose articles
Secure all loose articles from your balcony or outside area. Take in your washing machine or fill it with water. Secure the lid with tape, take down your clothes line, and bring outside furniture in. If you can’t bring your bike in, place it on its side near a wall where there won’t be high winds. If you have a car, make sure you tuck the side mirrors in so they won’t be hit by flying debris. I’ve seen people get their side mirrors smashed off enough times to be paranoid about that.
4. Hunker down
Hold the fort. The high winds tend to push water into the apartment. To keep your floors from getting ruined, put newspaper in the sills of your doors and windows. Stay away from the windows because they could shatter. A friend of mine had his window shatter during his first typhoon. Not fun. Keep all electronics and furniture away from the window.
5. Check if you have emergency duties
Your contracting organization could assign emergency duties to you such as evacuating non-Japanese speakers, translation for emergency services or if you have to be on standby.
6. Ask your coordinator to call you
Everyone does things differently and Okinawa’s policy states, “If the buses are running, we have school and work.” Not always the best policy, but I digress. Check what your town/prefecture/city’s policies are. Have your coordinator call you or notify you if there is school or work the next morning.
7. Know what to do in an emergency situation
The emergency number in Japan is 119. Register with your embassy and home country that you are overseas and how to reach you. This was a great way to locate JETs after the Fukushima accident. Tell a friend and your school where you are.
What not to do:
- Don’t go outside during the typhoon. It’s not fun to get hit by stuff or get rain pummeling your eyeballs. If you absolutely need to go outside, go during the eye of the storm.
- Don’t drive. This should be a no brainer, but the amount of people I’ve seen trying to question mother nature, makes me state this otherwise.
- Don’t go near the ocean. I’ve seen surfers hacking at it because that’s when the best waves are, but many of them have been doing this for years. People have gone fishing and even been swept away by high waves after the typhoon.
- Don’t go near fallen utility poles or sagging cables.
So, you’re all set to go. What do you do when the typhoon actually hits? If you’re in the mood…
No one knows how to party like the OkiJETs so we secure as much alcohol and food as possible. If you’re on an outer island of Okinawa or mainland Japan, chances are, your power is going to be out and the party will keep going. Don’t party too hard as you never know if you have to work the next morning. In any case, it’s fun to spend time with your friends, make food, play games, and drink in good company. My fondest memories have been at typhoon parties. Good luck, and hopefully this guide will help you not panic when your first typhoon comes.