Mother Nature’s unpredictable mood swings and temper tantrums is something that everyone who lives in Japan gets accustomed to at some point.
My very first earthquake, back when I was living in Oita on Kyushu Island, was one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced in my life.
It was 3am. It was summer. I was sleeping without err… clothes on. I am not a light sleeper.
My phone started yelling, “Jishin des!” in a high-pitched voice.
I opened my eyes. The lamp on the ceiling was swaying from side to side. The birds outside were screaming bloody Mary. It lasted all of 10 seconds, but I’ve never felt such primal fear in my life.
The shock of being rudely awakened (something that NEVER happens to me. I can sleep soundly in the midst Delhi traffic), scared me in a way I don’t think I’ll ever be able to describe.
It was one of the few times in my life where I actually wondered if I was going to live to see another day. I couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night.
Having grown up in Singapore where the weather is relatively stable all year round, Japan’s seasonal changes (and dangers) took a little getting used to.
Typhoon season in Oita was…terrifying. The elements of wind and water took over the city. I could actually hear them banging on my door. The house shook for hours on end. We received a travel advisory warning from head office the day before so I stocked up on food supplies so I wouldn’t have to leave the house. School was cancelled and public transport stopped.
I had never experienced a 24 hour lockdown before. There really is a first time for everything.
I had a friend from Tokyo visiting Oita at the time, and even she said that she’d never experienced anything like this on Japan’s Honshu Island: where around 80% of the population lives.
It’s safe to say that Kyushu is not the place to be during typhoon season.
Having said that, in many ways, Japan is as safe as it gets.
I’ve never felt scared on the train, even when it’s very late at night. As many of you already know, I’m a pro at running for the last train home from Tokyo to Yokohama.
I’m also generally not afraid to walk around by myself regardless of what time it is. There are a couple of neighbourhoods in Yokohama that are best avoided at night, but overall – Japan is a safe place for the solo female traveller.
Apart from dealing with frisky salarymen who’ve had one too many drinks – I haven’t had any real trouble.
But these earthquakes and typhoons… man, they’re scary. (Please don’t tell my parents I said that.)
Right now – Typhoon Malakas is coming down on us unapologetically.
Mother Nature is doing what she does. Reminding us that we live in an ecosystem that we have to take care of.
In the past two years of living in Japan, I have grown accustomed to Mother Nature’s unpredictable mood swings and temper tantrums. But I’m still terrified of her.
If you lived in Japan – you would be, too.