Posts Tagged “Rain”

Imagine, if you will, a grown man, approximately 30 years old. Now imagine him, running across a beach.

Now add an incredible downpour, take his clothes, and picture him leaping over suddenly-gouged runoff channels in the sand. Yep that’s me.

Last Saturday night I went to Imabari, a city near Matsuyama, for salsa night at a club there. They’ve recently moved; the new location was taken over from a burlesque revue (which I had no idea existed around here), so it was much bigger and brighter than the old hole-in-the-wall location and I was excited to see it.

Unfortunately, Yuko had already made plans with friends from work, so I went stag with Kevin. Manuel and a mutual friend of theirs rounded out the foursome, and Manuel drove us all in his minivan.

As the dancing was winding down, Kevin reminded me that I still hadn’t been camping on the beach, and he and Manuel both happened to have their camping gear in the car.

It seemed like a great idea at the time.

We left the club a little after 2am and stopped at a convenience store to get some supplies. By the time we finished setting up the tents around 4:30am, the sun’s first rays were just peeking over the eastern horizon, and the first small water droplets were falling pleasantly around us. In fact, I commented that the nice patter might help us sleep well for our anticipated day of fun, sun, and barbequeing.

Unfortunately, that small patter grew to a heavy drizzle, then a deluge. Manuel’s tent had not only been leaking while he slept, but it proved better at retaining water than shedding it, leaving everything inside soaked through. The tent I shared with Kevin was a little better off, we only soaked up a bit of water where Kevin’s lanky frame stretched the tent’s seams by his feet.

In the morning, Manuel was hell bent on getting off the beach as soon as possible. Because all his stuff was already soaked, it didn’t matter that he was taking down his tent in the pouring rain.

And because he was our ride, Kevin and I were faced with the difficult question of how best to keep our stuff dry while moving it from the beach to the car.

We eventually accepted the fact that it wasn’t going to let up any time soon. However, we only had the clothes on our backs, and didn’t want them to get drenched while we disassembled the tent and moved everything to the car.

Both of us being boys on an otherwise-deserted beach, we decided to strip down to our underwear and pack everything in the plastic shopping bags from the night before.

Cue wet, naked beach running.

After that, it was pretty easy. With our stuff safely in the car, Kevin and I even took a few minutes to jump in the sea. Heck, we were already naked and soaked, why not? The water was surprisingly warm compared to the cool late-summer rain falling around us, and unusually non-salty because of the downpour, but a few honks from the car reminded us not to stay too long.

Would I do it again? Probably not on purpose.
I’m glad to have the adventure, though. =)

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It’s been an interesting day. I woke up super early this morning (5am is super early for me now) to go see this year’s fighting mikoshi festival at Dogo. I didn’t bring my real camera because I didn’t want it to get rained on, so I’m glad I got decent photos and video last year. The pics snapped with my phone camera are pretty useless, but Kevin got a decent video or two.

It’s been raining for the last three days, actually. It started out as a nice steady light rain, but just in the last few hours it’s gotten heavier. At this point though, the rain isn’t as big a deal as the wind, which almost inverted my umbrella as I was riding to work. You see folks, Typhoon 18 is about to hit southern Japan.

I hear about typhoons pretty regularly, but I don’t usually pay attention to the warnings because the east-west mountain range just south of the city usually diffuses any strong weather before it hits Matsuyama. (Unless of course, I’m riding a bicycle across a series of bridges that day. Then it will undoubtedly rain cats and dogs.)

This time is a little different though. I actually have a typhoon warning on my phone, evening classes at my school were canceled (which I didn’t learn until I had already pedaled over there), and the business next door to my apartment building piled sandbags in front of their door.

I think we’re in for some real weather here.

If I don’t post again, look for me in Oz.

******** Update October 9th, 2009 ********

Much ado about nothing down here in Matsuyama. It hardly rained that night, and the next day was beautiful. The city of Tsuchiura, in Ibaraki prefecture however, was not so lucky:

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Here’s the result of a query I threw at the USGS National Earthquake Information Center database, showing all earthquakes stronger than 5.0 for the year so far in the region.

Mother Nature is really toying with Japan right now. I’m not sure how much press the recent Japanese earthquakes have gotten in the states, but they’re pretty big news here. First of all, last month’s huge earthquake: When I woke up on Saturday the 14th and turned on the TV while eating breakfast, it was on every channel. The earthquake was a magnitude 7.2, and totally reshaped the landscape in some areas. The eastern and western tectonic plates that meet at the earthquake fault line moved toward each other up to 28cm and 29cm respectively in some places. Because of the specific planting grid pattern layout of rice fields, it’s easy to see where they buckled and formed small hills where the ground pushed together.

A number of roads were not just destroyed, but erased- the land they were on is now gone. One landslide moved 5 million cubic meters of soil – enough earth to fill the Tokyo Dome 40 times over (as repetitively reported by a number of news agencies here). Some landslides left gaping holes in the ground that look like the Grand Canyon. Fifteen “quake lakes” formed from landslides blocking rivers. The power involved is really awesome, in the more traditional sense of the word.

One local onsen was completely erased by the earthquake. The family that owned it and a few patrons were inside when the building was crushed and carried downhill in a landslide. So the building is gone, the owners and their family are gone, and the spring is now buried under a mountain of mud.

Everyone interviewed says that they couldn’t remain standing during the quake, they had to lay down or fall down. Videos from security cameras show everything in stores just collapsing and falling to the ground. Twelve people died, ten are missing (now presumed dead), and 358 injured.

Some bridges collapsed, and land under some national highways has risen by up to 50cm, disjoining sections of roads and bridges. A number of bridges that weren’t destroyed will need to be replaced because of damaged underpinnings. It seems a lot like a Sim City earthquake, with long ripples in the topsoil, and everything above the quake just wiped- trees, roads, and buildings alike.

So that was June 14th. A week ago, on July 22nd, there was a 5.2 off the coast, and then the next day, a 6.8 on eastern Honshu (the largest Japanese island) on the 23rd injured 200 people and damaged 90 buildings.

As if a series of powerful earthquakes wasn’t enough, a few days ago there were wind gusts strong enough to uproot trees, knock over light buildings (temporary offices, sheds, unfinished construction), and injure people with flying debris. A huge deluge today dumped so much rain that four people died in flash flooding, and the government evacuated 50,000 people from central Japan. One river rose 1.3 meters (~4 feet) just in the span of ten minutes. They didn’t even have time to close some flood control gates it was so fast.

I know I haven’t been here very long, but I can’t imagine this is normal. It can’t be.

Right??

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It’s time I talked about the weather in Matsuyama.

Here is one of the corners on my way to work. The small road on the left will take you to my apartment, the large road to the right will take you to ALS Matsuyama. I think I’ve mentioned before that Matsuyama reminds me very much of San Diego. So much so, in fact, that I’ve begun to think of it as a smaller Japanese version of that beautiful southern California city (minus the plastic aesthetic).

Despite its importance on the world stage, Japan is a small country, physically speaking. At about 375,000 km², it’s a little smaller than Montana and a little larger than Germany. One of the neat things about a country that size is that the nightly news gives weather for the entire country, rather than one local area or region. Not only that, but Japan’s newscasters must have some weird 6th sense (Shirley MacLaine, not M. Night Shyamalan) that allows them to determine the precise times, locations, and magnitudes of weather patterns in three hour blocks.

Seriously, the local nightly news here not only gives temperatures throughout the day, it tells you what time it’ll start raining tomorrow and what time it’ll stop. Unfortunately, only the national news is simulcast in English, and having just recently acquired internet access at home, I’m not yet accustomed to checking the forecast online.

This brings us to the trigger that convinced me to write about the weather in the first place.

On Thursday, there was a light rain in the morning that let up around the time I needed to leave for my Japanese lesson. Smiling at the clearing sky for cooperating with my need to hurry and get there on time, I set off on my bicycle sans umbrella.

A light mist started falling almost immediately, and the skies darkened the further I got from my apartment. Ten minutes into the twenty minute ride, I was severely punished for my foolishness when the rain really got going. Fat raindrops fell in my eyes and soaked the front of my shirt and shorts. Knowing I was soaked either way, I kept going to my lesson, arriving dripping wet.

I wasn’t really sure what to do at that point, as I had no way of drying myself. Paper towels are virtually nonexistent in Japanese bathrooms. Most small and medium sized businesses rely on you to bring your own towel. I kid you not- my school and many restaurants are the same way. I’ve asked a few Japanese people in Matsuyama, they’ve all said that Japanese people always carry around a washcloth or handkerchief, at least. Large businesses that expect foreign visitors might have an air dryer, but EPIC doesn’t have one of those.

So I found my teacher, and of course she started laughing the moment she saw me, asking “Didn’t you look at the weather forecast?”
“No,” I said, “unfortunately I did not.”

Then she surprised me by going to the front counter and asking to borrow a towel on my behalf. The woman stifled a laugh when she saw me and quickly brought out a towel from what I think is the employee lounge. Anyway, I dried what I could and tried to hand it back to the woman, but my teacher told me to take it home, wash it, and bring it back on Monday. “It’s the Japanese way,” she said.

Surprised and thankful, I said I would do just that.

Here’s a picture of the Matsuyama University towel I was lent. Beneath it is the towel (I got from an onsen that) I will start carrying with me.

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Sorry for the delay. Because I don’t have my own internet access, I never know for sure when I’m going to be able to get online, and this last week added a couple new wrinkles.

Before I go any further, here’s a picture of the government building I visit to get online. You might notice two things about this picture of the Ehime Prefecture International Center (EPIC) that are pretty typical in Japan- there’s parking for more bicycles than cars, and that parking is covered, while the automobile parking spaces are not.

First of all, we had some serious rain on Tuesday. Sometimes in Las Vegas, it rains buckets of water but it only lasts for a few minutes at a time. It occasionally lasts an hour or two, and ends up washing away roads in Summerlin or floating cars through the Charleston underpass. I’m not sure if the typhoon off the eastern coast of Japan pushed it our way or what, but it rained like that here on Tuesday. In fact, I chose not to ride through that rain to EPIC to use their computers.

I thought when it started raining like that in the morning I thought I’d be safe by the time I had to ride my bike to work at 3pm, but that turned out to just be wishful thinking. Steering my bike with one hand and holding my umbrella with the other, I hadn’t ridden 50 feet before I could feel rivulets of water running down my back under my dress shirt. Luckily, I had almost a whole hour to dry off before my first lesson (I was still a bit damp). Incidentally, it stopped raining at about 4pm. Go figure.

I used to think that the huge washes and moat-like gutters lining the sidewalks here were overkill, or perhaps holdovers from irrigation channels when this area was farmland, but now I see that they serve a real purpose. Lest you think I’m exaggerating the rainfall, here’s a picture I took from one of the windows in my apartment. It may look like dusk, but I took it just before I left for work at 3:00. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to see it on the web, but in the full resolution version you can see coherent streams of water, as if poured from a thousand buckets. I can’t wait for the rainy season to start in a couple of months.

The other new wrinkle is a previously unscheduled student added to the front of my schedule. Instead of the 2 or 4 pm I’ve been used to, I’ve had to be at work at 1:30 every day this week, which gives me less time to ride downtown and use a computer before work.

But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.

Despite all my nervousness, my trip to Matsuyama was pretty straightforward. In fact, I was so prepared for one of the many pieces to fall out of place that it was almost a let-down. Buying a ticket for the monorail was a bit sketchy at first when the machine wouldn’t take my money, but I soon figured that you had to put the coins in from high to low denominations. I was also a little unsure of what to do when they were announcing boarding groups for the airborne segment of my trip and I couldn’t understand a word of what was said, but I just waited for what seemed like general coach-class boarding, and got on with everyone else for the half-full flight from Tokyo to Matsuyama. The Japanese transportation system lived up to its clockwork reputation, and I figured out what I was supposed to do through context clues and the occasional English label.

In Matsuyama, I was supposed to catch a “limousine” bus from the airport to Matsuyama station where I’d be picked up by a school employee. Instead, I was met by the school’s owner at the airport. I had no idea he would be there, but it was quite easy for him to call me out of the otherwise entirely Japanese crowd.

As we drove away from the airport, the first thing I noticed about Matsuyama was how clear the sky was and how much it reminded me of southern California. We followed Ishite River for a while, then drove through the downtown area and this cute walking street shopping district, and ended up on the street where the school is situated. Except for the fact that everything is in Japanese, it really could be San Diego.

Here’s a picture of my school and the building that houses it.

Teshima-san (the aforementioned owner) picked up Semba-san (the school’s manager) from school, and the three of us ate lunch at Bamiyan Chinese restaurant (think Applebee’s with pork fried rice) near the school while getting acquainted. Teshima-san is a busy man, almost never seen at school. Semba-san is also quite busy, but in contrast with Mr. Teshima, Ms. Semba’s life seems to revolve around the school. She preps the school to open every day at 2pm, and sometimes doesn’t leave until after 11pm.

After lunch, she drove me over to my new apartment to meet Erin Kourelis, the outgoing teacher I was hired to replace. Erin had checked out an extra bicycle from EPIC, and after I unceremoniously dropped my bags near the genkan (げんかん – shoe-changing entrance area) by the front door, we rode around the neighborhood in the waning light to acquaint me with the environ and shop for dinner fixin’s.

That night, as we talked over beef curry and rice, I got an idea of how much I had to absorb from Erin in the next three days until he left for New York.

I was to have about fifty students, spread over about twenty classes per week. Of those twenty classes, there are three pairs of classes with matching syllabi and lesson plans. Minus those, I was looking at preparing lesson plans and materials for about seventeen individual classes of varying age and ability levels each week. Oh. Okay.

When I was riding around the neighborhood and shopping with Erin, I didn’t see as much English as I had seen in the area around Tokyo. I wasn’t entirely surprised, but I need at least some English to make basic shopping and restaurant menu decisions. Erin’s lived in various Japanese cities for six years and learned quite a bit of Japanese, so it was basically a nonissue for him, but he agreed with my assessment, saying that Matsuyama is “pretty bad for English.” Oh. Okay.

Another thing I realized while riding around is that Las Vegas and its grid pattern are very easy to navigate. Matsuyama is laid out in typical “confuse the invading armies” Japanese style. So… Hey great, you have a map! Is there one with our neighborhood? No? Is there an English map of the city? No? Oh. Okay.

This last point proved to be an important issue.

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