News and newspapers informed us about the power of typhoon Hagibis days ago.
It would be headed towards the Tokyo area, continued in the north and then vanish into the atmosphere. We all knew of his arrival, but as often happens, we were all too busy with the problems of everyday life, to give it the right importance.
Don’t misunderstand me, nature cannot be resisted. It is stronger than all of us all human beings together, and in recent years, she is proving it with several disasters all around the world (famous “climate change” that some people continue to deny).
Exaggerate? Too critical? Maybe, but these are the thoughts that were spinning around my head as we were filling our backpacks, leaving our home and heading towards the high school in our neighborhood, considered by the city hall our “safe zone”.
The night before the typhoon we went to the supermarket, not to collect some supplies, but to see what the situation was like.
At home we have already filled our thermos plus a 5 L bottle of water, we have some snacks in the pantry (sugars), plenty of rice (carbohydrates), vegetables, fruit (vitamins and fiber) and eggs that we have boiled (protein).
Although there were still some preparations to be made (rice and eggs) we felt ready in case of an emergency.
Exactly like what our entire neighborhood did too!
Arrived at the supermarket, we were smiling looking at all the shells completely empty!
Among the vegetables, cabbage and salad, bean sprouts, daikon, carrots, and potatoes were 100% sold, together. Same thing for Cup Ramen, meat and obento.
Snacks like chips, biscuits, and candy were half-filled, while baked goods like bread, brioche or sandwiches were gone (there was no longer even the product tag). Among the drinks instead, water and tea did not survive the raid.
More than a year in Japan and I had never seen such a situation, and neither was Yo, who has experience for sure more typhoons than me.
Dealing with a face of nature so angry made me realize how lucky I have always been. I grew up in an area where such events are read-only in international newspapers, without creating panic in our lives.
I have never seen a great storm, never been afraid of an earthquake, never feared a flood that would take away my house and never see food raiding at the supermarket except on days like Easter or New Year, where people run to by some last-minute supplies. I was incredibly lucky.
This is why the first J-alert, announcing the immediate evacuation of the houses of the morning of Hagibis’ arrival brought me in a panic mental state.
That morning he had to deal with a crazy woman, still in pajamas and a half sleepwalker that, between a “速 く” ( hurry) and a “What are you going to do!”, was going up and down the stairs of the house bringing on the upper floors tatami, cushions, tables (and everything that was transportable), putting our computers with plastic bags and covering the windows with cartoons and adhesive tape.
I can say that my memories of that morning are very blurred.
Yo, on the other hand, calmly, cooked the rice, boiled the eggs, filled the water, put the bikes at the entrance and prepared our backpacks.
After a quick call to the worried parents at home, at 7.30 we were ready to leave the house, under a rain that was getting thicker and thicker and with water starting to come out of the manholes.
As reported by our municipality, we headed to one of the high schools, which here in Japan are recognized as safe, resistant and perfect for evacuation.
Apart from a small panic moment of panic due to the doors closed at the entrance of the school (it was not reported but we had to go to the gym at the back of the building), once we entered we breathed a sigh of relief.
At 8 am there were not many people.
Besides us and a few boys alone, the rest were mainly seniors who, sleeping on their tatami or reading the newspaper, had probably been there for a long time.
For those who do not know, the J-alert (emergency message on the mobile phone) that is received in case of emergency, also indicates which level of evacuation we should respect. While level three had been released the day before, on the morning of the typhoon we reached level 5, which had continued until its passage.
As a result, the elders in the gym had been there for some time, long before us.
Placed our backpacks on a tatami, in a corner of the gym, we were immediately welcomed by the employees of the municipality (easily recognizable by a red bib) which, divided into the different schools scattered around the city, had the responsibility to ensure that everyone they were fine.
Many will think: “It’s their job!” It is true, but let me tell you that the kindness and helpfulness they have shown us have been unimaginable. For all 15 hours closed in that school, they have always been active and present (I have never seen them sit!).
They offered assistance to the elderly who were struggling to walk, to families with newborns and keep us informed about the situation outside.
But it wasn’t just their behavior who surprise me.
I get tears in my eyes thinking back to the sense of community in which we found involved. From the youngest to the elderly, everyone volunteered to help each other.
Like early in the morning, when, with the arrival of more and more people, it was necessary to place several tatami (mattresses) for the gym and offer newspapers and blankets to everyone. No one asked for help, but everyone volunteered to help out.
A huge wooden box containing delicious steaming rice. To be able to distribute it easily to everyone, the women, but especially the grandmothers, began to shape delicious onigiri with their hands, at an impressive speed which, talking and laughing with each other. It was a beautiful moment.
The sense of community that I perceived has no equal.
It was certainly a long day. Our only entertainment was seeing kids running and playing, and our phone, which was ringing almost every due to the J-alert.
Towards the evening we experienced the arrival of Hagibis. It was around 18.30. To be more safe, they moved us to the third floor of the school (also here, everyone was helping each other bringing upstair tatami on the shoulders and elders on a stretcher) and, apart from the scary wind and rain that could be heard and seen from the windows, the area in which we live has not suffered serious damage. The big river near home remained in his bed, and the bridges held up.
After 15 hours locked, everyone left quickly the school, hoping that their homes were safe.
Despite the warnings from the municipality (they wanted us to stay in the school until the arrival of sunlight) we also left the school around 10,30 pm. And after thanking all those who had helped us with a strict and respectful bow, we finally returned home.
The day after a typhoon is always characterized by a blinding sun and a rise in temperatures. No matter how strong or destructive it was, the next day it was immediately sunny.
But behind the solar façade, there is the dark responsibility to deal with the situation.
Japan has awakened with missing and injured. 5,000 people still in an evacuated state, 133,000 homes in the 13 prefecture without water, and more than 600 public buildings damaged. Together with 1/3 of the Shinkansen Hokuriku line submerged by water.
Everyone was talking about the damage that could have happened in the Tokyo area, as the home of the capital.
But were the prefectures of Nagano and Fukushima the ones with more victims and damage.
With areas completely submerged by water, at the moment, a big part of the inhabitants are without electricity, gas, drinking water services of primary need.
Minister Shinzo Abe said that Hagibis was a tragedy for the country.
Declaring it a “severe natural disaster” was able to increase the expenses for reconstruction work in the various areas affected.
Events of this type, up to now, have occurred several years apart. Many people say that due to climate change, this distance will always be closed, and that the power of these tropical storms will be stronger and stronger.
Whether you believe it or not, is it not time to change something in our lives?