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Published:October 8th, 2009 09:33 EST

Typhoon strikes Japan; Japan strikes back

By Geoff Dean

 As I write this contribution, the clock and calendar on the wall inform me that it is 9:15 on Thursday, October 8, 2009. Outside my office door, I can still here the gale winds and see debris occasionally floating by. According to NHK News in Japan, Tokyo and the rest of Japan have been hit by the strongest typhoon to reach our shores in the last ten years.

 The morning news broadcast was filled with pictures of downed trees and flooded roads, mostly in the Nagoya area of central Japan. Reporters told of a woman injured when her air conditioner was blown through a window and crashed on top of her. Another reported a woman injured when stepping outside to check on the condition of her shed and being hit by a flying branch. Domestic flights were cancelled and bullet trains were suspended temporarily.

 My personal experience of Typhoon Number 18, as it is called here (unlike in the West, where hurricanes are given names like Ivan and Katrina, Japanese people maintain a cool distance from their weather phenomenon, merely numbering them), was my morning commute. I walk fifteen minutes from my house to workplace, dropping off my daughter at elementary school along the way.

 Today, as I left home, I immediately noticed some downed branches and the powerful wind. My six year old daughter was nearly knocked down a few times by gusts of wind (and enjoyed every second of it). As I passed in front of Nihon University (the five minute mark in my commute), there was a low lying section of the street, with water to knee depth (for my daughter, probably waist depth). We took advantage of an embankment to avoid the deluge.

 Reaching the "shopping street" that led to the school and my workplace, we discovered shop signs and banned knocked down and/or flying about, garbage cans rattling around in the street, and bicycles rattling where they lay, upturned.

 Still, what we noticed more than anything else was that life went on. The business people were still on their way to the station, briefcase in one hand, umbrella in the other. The school kids were still walking to school, forming a sea of yellow raincoats. People were still riding their bicycles, walking their dogs, and the man whom we usually see jogging of a morning, was out there jogging, as always. Despite the newscasters hyperventilating about the worst storm in ten years, people seemed to take the whole thing in stride. It`s fall. Typhoons happen. Can`t let a little something like a natural disaster slow you down.

 On the NHK TV report, there was an interview with a man at Nagoya Station who was hoping to catch a train to Tokyo so he could attend a business meeting at 10AM. The reporter asked him why he was there, even though the trains had been cancelled. "Maybe they`ll start up again soon," replied the optimist.  "Perhaps, but what if they don`t," asked the reporter, trying to rain on his parade. "I guess I`ll have to find another way to get to Tokyo by 10AM," responded the man with a wry smile.

 That, my friends, in a nutshell, is Japan.