Main News:

  • Central and Eastern Honshu (Main Island of Japan) Hit hardest.
  • the JMA says many locations received upwards of 40% of their yearly rainfall amounts in only 36 hours.
  • over 140 rivers broke their banks and caused flooding, with 21 major levee breaks and major floods occurring in places like Nagano and Fukushima Prefectures. Tokyo wasn’t spared at all, taking a direct hit and minor flooding was reported along the Tama, Sumida and Arakawa rivers in the central part of the metropolis.
  • Even Japan’s famed Bullet train couldn’t escape unscathed. East Japan Railway reports 10 trains, with a total of 120 cars, were damaged by an estimated four meters of water, and its unknown when the line linking Nagano and Toyama to Tokyo will be fully back in service.
  • As of now, state broadcaster NHK reports over 40 dead along with as many as 16 missing. Due to many businesses like shops and stores along with transport services canceling trains, buses and flights, many people hunkered down in their homes and avoided being caught off guard.

Pain Points

  • While the scale of the disaster area is larger than that of 3/11, the response was planned days in advance (typhoon vs quake of course, but probably more so because TP Faxai which hit only 1 week before was so powerful, destroying power lines, tipping roofs and leaving people stranded for days at New Tokyo International Airport in the eastern Tokyo suburbs. Hagibis was forecast to be bigger, stronger and potentially more dangerous, prompting officials to start preparing shelters and warn businesses and organizations really early.
  • However with the Rugby World Cup in full swing, more tourists have flocked to Japan (on top of already record numbers) and many had no idea what to do with the warnings that were being issued only in Japanese.
  • State broadcaster NHK has an English language service, smartphone apps and an English website, but many visitors had no idea about it in my not-so-scientific survey of revelers hanging out in Shibuya the day after.
  • Japan’s disaster warning systems are probably the best in the world; SMS provided evacuation conditions and shelter locations down to street level and public address loudspeakers can be heard pretty much everywhere people live — but only do so in Japanese. Many people were posting screenshots of their cellphone warnings on Facebook and Reddit for those of us with bilingual skills to translate to them and help them out. (Hey Apple and Google, make it so we can cut and paste these warnings into Translate, m’kay?)
  • There was a mini panic buying spree observed by those of us living here— staples like bread, milk, rice and more flew off store shelves in the 2 days leading up to landfall, along with instructions coming from news shows saying to fill up bathtubs and other containers with water, have extra portable gas cans for camping stoves and mobile power banks for phones to cope with power outages that may occur.