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Wakayama neighborhood destroyed by typhoon to hold dissolution ceremony

This article appeared in the paper on Friday, October 14th. Here’s a rough translation.

http://www.agara.co.jp/modules/dailynews/article.php?storyid=219367

As a result of the severe damage inflicted by typhoon #12, Okubanchi-ku, part of Hongu in Wakayama Prefecture, will hold a dissolution ceremony at its last neighborhood festival on November 5th. The 10 residents of the Ku have restarted their lives in other parts of Hongu, and thus will draw an end to the neighborhood of Okubanchi.

Okubanchi is the furthest neighborhood toward the mountains from Fushiigami; after crossing the Mikoshi River it’s a five minute drive up. Eight households live quietly, as if they surrounded a temple. The pure river there is known for ayu and amago sweetfish, drawing fishermen from many parts of the country.

The heavy rains of typhoon #12 set off a landslide 300 meters tall and 200 meters wide in the southern part of the neighborhood. Cut off by the slide, the river changed course and cut through the neighborhood. When the river subsided, all that was left of the temple, community center, and two households was a new valley.

The residents spent a few days at Hongu Junior High School, the evacuation center, and then moved in with family members or into vacant homes in the area. Yoshinori Nomoto (84) and his wife Mikiko (75) are living in Mikiko’s parents’ vacant house. They fled without any belongings, so Yoshinori walked back over the blocked road, crossed the valley, and recovered some of his valuables, including his mother’s ring and the family altar, from his mostly-crushed house. Not long thereafter, his house was fully destroyed by the next typhoon, #15.

“I knew Okuban was finished” when the landslide happened, says Mikiko. When her children visited from a different prefecture, they were at a loss for words but knew their parents had to move out. From December Yoshinori and Mikiko will be living in an apartment near Mikiko’s oldest daughter in nearby Nara Prefecture.

November 3rd is the official date of the annual festival at the Okubanku shrine. Knowing it’s the last one, the neighborhood residents are planning a grand sendoff. The neighborhood address records were washed away in the flood, so residents must rely on word of mouth to inform each other of the plans. The ceremonies have been planned for the 5th, a weekend day.

“It’s a small neighborhood and everyone’s friends. If we had young people living here we could get things going again, but we don’t have the power,” says Yoshinori, covering his eyes. “Because of this typhoon damage I was reminded of the kindness of people of Hongu. People are very good to us where we are staying now, and I wish I could continue our relationship with them here.”

Under the only house left unscathed by the flood and landslides is a taro patch. Mikiko has been growing them. “When it gets close to the festival I’ll dig them up. We might have a hundred people come,” she says. She’s looking forward to serving stewed taro to all of the guests at the dissolution ceremony.

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Roke, typhoon 15–Kyushu, Shikoku, Nagoya. Everywhere but Wakayama?

Typhoon Chebi at peak strength.

Image via Wikipedia

Just like a couple weeks ago, lots of people, young and elderly, are shaking their heads, saying “I’ve never seen anything like this as long as I’ve been alive.”

A couple weeks ago typhoon 12, Talas, swung a neverending chain of rain clouds at the Kii Peninsula, causing the now-famous damage here.  Today Roke seems to have done the same thing–everywhere but here.  Kyushu, Shikoku, and the Gifu/Nagoya area were hit very hard, with 1,300,000 under mandatory or voluntary evacuation in Nagoya alone–more than the population of all of Wakayama Prefecture!

With water of this volume falling the real damage will come as it soaks in, so it’s still very early to make any statements about it one way or another.  It seems that the rain on the Kii Peninsula will fall tonight, so we’ll see how that affects the mountains here, which are possibly still very unstable after Talas’ rain.  For anyone who knows me personally, don’t worry–our mountain is in no danger.  Our little vacation later this week might be, though.

Here’s a Google image search for Typhoon 15 and overflow, in Japanese.

Here’s a Google image search for Nagoya flood in Japanese.

Again, I’ll be posting more frequently on http://www.facebook.com/gaijinfarmer throughout the typhoon, so head over and give it a ‘like’ to keep up on the latest news–translated into English, of course.

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Wakayama typhoon–more landslides from rain this weekend

Typhoon #15 is somewhere south of us, sending a wave of rain clouds over Wakayama, Nara, and Mie, the same areas hit hard by Typhoon #12 (Talas, and yes, two more have veered over the Philippines and China since then).  Land that’s already been loosened by the previous rains is getting soaked again, and elevated lakes caused by landslides damming rivers are in danger of breaching, with possible serious consequences.

Now, at 11:30 p.m. on Friday night, the reports of landslides have already started to come in, and two days’ of rain is forecast.  I’ll do my best to stay on top of the Twitter news coming in, and repost in English to Gaijin Farmer’s facebook page.  Please visit, and ‘like’ it to get updates as things happen.

http://www.facebook.com/gaijinfarmer

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Talas in Wakayama, Japan: the typhoon that just wouldn't go away

I think one of the two things that were so surreal about tropical storm Talas, or Number 12 as we call it over here, was that it only got started after it was supposed to be over.  Moving excruciatingly slowly, it kept us waiting and waiting for it to pass.  When it finally passed, then it started raining, and that’s when all the stuff you’re seeing on the news happened.

Heavy wind, but relatively little rain yet:

On the night it landed I posted to my facebook page, “Why does it only get interesting after dark?”  I like windstorms and was kind of bummed I’d miss this one while I slept.  I was woken up many times through the night, and then finally in the morning, by rattling windows and pounding on the walls.  The wind was just as strong in the morning, and continued through the afternoon.   As time stretched on, we watched the weather updates on TV throughout the day, with the weather commentators noting that it was only going as fast as someone on a bicycle (and they don’t mean a Bianchi around here), and then giving it the name ノロノロ台風 (noronoro taifuu), or sluggish typhoon.

When the sluggish typhoon finally rode its mama-bicycle far enough away that the wind died down, it started to rain.  And rain and rain and rain.  A freakishly direct line of rain clouds spiraled in toward our peninsula, delivering up to 1,800 mm of rain in a period of six days.  For comparison, the wettest typhoon on record happened in 2009 in Taiwan, with 2,327 mm of rain.  So while 500mm more rain would have been disastrous here, we’re somewhere in the same category I think.

Another factor that contributed to the intensity of this storm was the tides.  During the period of peak wind we had three high tides, which were enhanced by the steady, powerful winds, and got blown onshore, over seawalls, into drainage systems, and most importantly, reduced the draining potential of the swollen rivers.

Although it rained hard and long here, the majority of the clouds broke as they hit the eastern mountain slopes on the other side of the peninsula, and that’s where the record rainfall numbers happened.  But the landslides that the continued rain caused happened all over the peninsula, and that’s the second thing that was really surreal about this storm–that it happened here, after all.

The storm made landfall on Shikoku, far enough away we locked the steel shutters into place but didn’t worry too much.  Any typhoon that makes landfall will cause deaths in one way or another, but after the numbers climbed slowly, spread out over Shikoku, our peninsula, and elsewhere, they began to climb faster–and only here.  Although Mie and Nara prefectures got more rain, Wakayama has a higher number of dead and missing by far, and now the newscasters say it every time they take inventory.  The numbers aren’t catastrophic, but there are people within two degrees of separation there, people who live in areas I know well.

In fact, the landslide featured in the video below cut off the overland route to the other side of the peninsula, essentially stranding an area where I used to teach.  The road will be cleared soon enough.  I was hoping to take my scooter over an incredibly narrow mountain road, the back way into that area, to check out the landslide from the other side–but that road starts in the area of Tanabe hit by a gigantic landslide, a tiny neighborhood where three of only six households were flattened.  Although I can’t help the area that’s been cut off, visiting would be fun.  But I can’t get over the feeling that taking that road to get there would be akin to disaster tourism.

I was happy to see that most of the rice still in the fields was still easily harvestable, with only a few fields really flattened.  A local junior high school’s sports fields were hit pretty hard, and a landslide narrowly missed cutting off the main bridge to where I used to live.  Click on any picture below to start a slideshow of the pictures included.

Here the river is much lower than at its crest, but still really dangerous.

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