Tag Archives: weather

Tropical storms to the left of me, typhoons to the right

14 Sep

Hi blog.

Just in case you’ve been living under a rock, or in one of those countries whose news stories are all sports reports, eastern Japan was hit by the worst flooding on record.

We were not affected here.  Sure, Typhoon No. 18 brought the usual wind and rain – not enough to force school closures or anything like that – and the phenomenon that followed was news to me when I got home that night.

Here’s a nice, straightforward analysis from The Japan Times.


How Japan’s devastating rainstorm came about


Torrential rain that caused flooding and the evacuations of tens of thousands of people across the Kanto region on Thursday was the result of a mass of humid air unable to escape the area, a pileup of thunderclouds — and possibly climate change, experts said.

The heavy rainfall in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures was caused by stationary humid air covering a wide swath of sky in the Kanto region, which was unable to move in any direction. It was hemmed in to the west by a chunk of cold air over the Sea of Japan, where Typhoon Etau fizzled out, and a block of humid air to the east over the Pacific Ocean, where Typhoon Kilo was swirling, according to Kunihiro Naito, a forecaster at Weathernews Inc., a Chiba-based weather information company.

“Usually, autumn typhoons pass quickly after making landfall in Japan, and strong rain clouds normally move eastward along with the typhoons,” Naito said. “This time, however, after Typhoon Etau lost its strength and turned into a tropical cyclone in the Sea of Japan, it stayed there, while humid air kept flowing in from the south. This resulted in the formation of a rain zone in Kanto.”

The downpour that afflicted almost half of Kanto had pretty much the same factors behind it as the torrential rain that struck the city of Hiroshima in August 2014, which triggered massive floods and landslides and killed 74 people.

In meteorological terms, what happened to Hiroshima is known as “back building,” whereby thunderclouds typically pile up in a narrow band about 10 km wide, causing intense rainfall in a very small area.

This week’s rainstorm was a larger version of what happened in Hiroshima, in that it involved much larger amounts of thunderclouds creating a thicker, longer band of rain, 100 km in width and 1,000 km in length, Naito said.

While such sudden pileups of thunderclouds are not new, the growing intensity of downpours in recent years might be linked to climate change, Naito said.

“Ocean temperatures around Japan have been rising in recent years, producing vapor and making air conditions unstable. That makes ‘back building’ of sorts easier to happen,” Naito said.

Kei Yoshimura, a hydrologist at the University of Tokyo’s Atmosphere and Ocean Research Institute, said the magnitude of the Kinugawa River flooding on Thursday was “something that takes place only once in 100 years.”

He added that it was too early to conclude the flooding was linked to climate change, saying the heavy rainfall happened to occur along that river.

“It’s my view that the effect of climate change on this particular incident is zero, or unknown at this point,” he said.

Article ends.

There are far too many news articles to put up or even link to here.  I’ll just leave you with an interesting piece of trivia.

The Kinu River (I hate calling it the Kinugawa River) usually is a gentle flowing river, and the word kinu usually means “silk” (絹).  In fact, this was  one of its names in times past.  This river, however, can cause massive damage when it floods, and the modern name uses two characters meaning “demon” (鬼) and “anger” (怒) which can be read together as “kinu”.  

The Kinu River flowing smooth as silk in Joso – the worst-hit area of this year’s flooding.  Compare it to the pictures you see on the news. Photo by Otherde, licensed under GFDL via Wikipedia.

My thoughts are with those affected by the flooding.

How hot?

6 Aug

Hi blog.

The weather continues to make the news here (often sports and weather are deemed more newsworthy than actual news…) as the hot weather continues.

From the Asahi Shimbun:


Tokyo marks record 5th straight day of heat wave with mercury topping 35 degrees

August 04, 2015


The mercury in Tokyo climbed to a sweltering 35.1 degrees just after noon on Aug. 4, a record fifth consecutive day of a heat wave in which temperatures reached 35 or higher.

It marked the longest period of temperatures that high in central Tokyo since official records were first kept in 1875.

According to Fire and Disaster Management Agency preliminary figures, 11,672 people have been taken to hospitals after complaining of heatstroke between July 27 and Aug. 2 nationwide, of which 25 died.


OK folks, that is a wee bit hot.  But I’m an Adelaide boy,  so just for a bit of perspective let us consult Dr. Wikipedia:

Between 3 March and 17 March 2008 Adelaide recorded 15 consecutive days of 35 °C (95 °F) or above, and 13 consecutive days of 37.8 °C (100.0 °F) or above…


The heatwave commenced in Adelaide on 26 January 2009 (Australia Day), with a temperature of 36.6 °C (98 °F). From 27 January the temperature soared above 40 °C (104 °F) degrees for 6 consecutive days, until 2 February where the temperature dropped to 38.8 °C (102 °F). This is the longest straight run of 40C temperatures in Adelaide. On 28 January, the third day into the heatwave, the temperature reached 45.7 °C (114 °F), making it the 3rd hottest day on record in Adelaide. On that same night, the temperature only dipped to 33.9 °C (93 °F), making it the highest minimum temperature on record in South Australia. The maximum temperatures stayed higher than 30C for another six days, including two more 40C plus days (6 and 7 February)…

Remember, the Tokyo area has never had an official temperature above 40°C.

Harden up, Japanese people!

Snow – the saga continues

18 Feb

Well, we can forget about that earlier blog entry’s claim for the heaviest snow in 20 years!

Around Tokorozawa station on Friday afternoon

Digging out paths around Tokorozawa station.

The snowfall on Friday was not only heavier here, it was followed  by a few hours of rain on Saturday, which makes the snow piled up on roofs etc. denser.  Locally, several carports and verandas collapsed under the weight of the snow – my bike park at work also fell in.

And, to make matters worse, it looks like more snow is on the way…


Over 9,000 people in Japan cut off due to heavy snowfall

TOKYO (Kyodo) — More than 9,000 people remained cut off Monday after heavy snowfall on the weekend, with roads blocked in some mountainous areas of Yamanashi, Saitama and Gunma prefectures as well as western Tokyo.

People traveling in vehicles in parts of Yamanashi, Nagano and Gunma prefectures were stranded as some highways were closed, and some Chuo Line train passengers were taken to hotels and other facilities as the trains were stuck in snow in Yamanashi.

The number of deaths related to the snow, excluding people involved in traffic accidents, has risen to 19 in eight prefectures, mostly in the Kanto-Koshin region centering on Tokyo, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency.

In Yamanashi Prefecture, 1,200 people in the town of Hayakawa and 1,300 in the villages of Kosuge and Tabayama were cut off, while at least 1,600 people were isolated in Kofu and other parts of the prefecture.

Helicopters airlifted food supplies in Yamanashi as main roads were closed in the prefecture.

East Japan Railway Co. on Monday suspended all 60 of its limited express services on the Chuo Line to and from Tokyo.

The Japan Meteorological Agency expects further snow along the Pacific coast of western to eastern Japan from Wednesday to Thursday.

February 17, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

If it’s cold, white and not vanilla ice cream, I don’t need any more of it.

It’s very pretty, but you don’t want to be IN the picture!

Snowed Under

11 Feb

Hi blog.

It’s a public holiday today, but I have a feeling that I’ll be doing more of what I was doing on the weekend – shovelling snow!

It seems hard to believe that we had March/April maximums at the end of January (18℃ at one point) before temperatures plummeted to 4℃ maximums and then the heaviest snow fall for over a decade.


5 die, over 600 injured as heavy snow hits eastern Japan

          A man walks on snow-covered tree-lined road in Yokohama on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued the first heavy snowfall warning for central Tokyo in 13 years. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
A man walks on snow-covered tree-lined road in Yokohama on Saturday, Feb. 8, 2014. The Japan Meteorological Agency issued the first heavy snowfall warning for central Tokyo in 13 years. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

TOKYO (Kyodo) — Heavy snow hit eastern Japan on Saturday, disrupting transportation systems and leaving five people dead and over 600 people injured in snow-related accidents, a Kyodo News tally showed.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued the first heavy snowfall warning for central Tokyo in 13 years. Snow accumulation reached 26 centimeters there, the heaviest snow in the Japanese capital since February 1994 and the fourth largest snowfall since World War II, the agency said.

Several universities in Tokyo delayed the starting times of their entrance examinations for the new academic year that begins in April.

Snowfall marked a record 30 cm in Chiba and 16 cm in Yokohama.

Temperatures in many cities in the Kanto region centering on Tokyo stayed below zero during the day and the agency issued a blizzard warning for Chiba Prefecture and parts of Kanagawa Prefecture.

At Tokyo’s Haneda airport, Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. suspended all domestic flights from noon and 3 p.m., respectively, affecting about 98,000 people.

The Tokaido and Sanyo bullet trains operating in central and western Japan fell behind schedule as they operated at reduced speed, affecting about 180,000 travelers, the operators said.

Sections of expressways, including the Shin-Tomei and Chuo expressways, were also closed due to the snow. Tokyo Electric Power Co. said 48,000 households in the Kanto region were without power Saturday night due to heavy snow.

Tokyo Skytree, the world’s tallest broadcasting tower at 634 meters, was closed from 11 a.m. due to strong winds, its operator said.

February 08, 2014(Mainichi Japan)

More Adventures in Cross-Linguistic Nomeclature – What’s (not) in a name?

10 Oct

I’ve been way too quiet on the blogging front over the last few months.  Finding things to write about can be tricky, especially without a good camera and the time to find that perfect shot, not to mention the weather playing up – we’ve had temperatures fluctuating from hot to cold and back again, and yet another typhoon is brewing as I write this.


That low pressure cell off Hokkaido is the remains of the typhoon that just passed through, and another one is sitting just off the Philippines.

Typhoon – an interesting word.  There is a large body of people here who think that it must be a corruption of the Japanese word taifu (台風), when in fact the reverse is closer to the truth.  While the etymology of the English word is unclear –Persian, Sanskrit and Greek roots have been cited – the modern Japanese word did not appear until after exposure to the English version.


Folk etymology is one thing, but incorrect translations are another, and one that really gets my goat is the definition most Japanese give for “beetle”.

For example, the Oxford English Dictionary provides us with this definition:


  • an insect of a large order distinguished by having forewings that are typically modified into hard wing cases (elytra), which cover and protect the hindwings and abdomen.

A disproportionally large number of English-Japanese dictionaries, however, give the translation as meaning “rhinoceros beetle”.  For example, I looked in my little “wordtank” electronic dictionary (I like to think of it as a “wordmoke”) under “beetle”, and it gave the definition as “rhinoceros beetle”.  I then tried Japanese to English – it gave the correct definition for “beetle”, but also gave  the meaning of “rhinoceros beetle” as “beetle”!  It’s a bit like deciding that the word for dog in one language means “golden retriever” in another! 

On English-to-Japanese mode, it gives the definiton as “rhinoceros beetle”…

… but on Japanese-to-English, defines 甲虫 (“beetle”) as…

Even the classic Volkswagen beetle is sometimes given the nickname “kabutomushi” (rhinoceros beetle) thanks to this error. 

Sorry folks, the VW beetle looks like a ladybird.  If you want something that resembles a rhinoceros beetle, I suggest you start looking at tanks!


Incidentally, the Japanese word for beetle is kochu (甲虫), and I wish more Japanese would learn it!!


It’s autumn, and that means chestnuts.  But for English speakers, the word “chestnut” is a rare find.  You see, the Japanese decided to adopt the French word marron when talking about non-traditional chestnut dishes, but think that it’s English.  I remember my early days of English teaching (I already had a firm background in Japanese at the time) and students telling me about “maron”, only to find it didn’t register.  It wasn’t in my vocabulary, it wasn’t in my Japanese-English dictionary… the closest word I knew was the name of an Australian freshwater crayfish!


Regular readers of this blog might remember that the Japanese word for chestnut is kuri (栗). 


Now it’s time to go off and teach some students the words “typhoon”, “rhinoceros beetle” and “chestnut”!

Haru Ichiban

2 Mar

Between early February (the beginning of spring on the lunar calendar) and the equinox, there is usually a gale from the south bringing warmer and more humid air over the archipelago.

This gale or storm is commonly known as haru ichiban (春一番).

Oddly enough, there was no haru ichiban in the Kanto region last year, and the warmest day so far this year was February 2nd, BEFORE the official period (it actually got to over 18 ℃!).  Then yesterday, we had strong gales blowing in from the south.  As a result, the weather is now just cool to cold as opposed to freezing.

Unfortunately for us living around here, the local market farmers usually plow up their fields just before this period, resulting in dust storms.  I’m still washing yesterday’s dust out of my eyes.  (And to think of the fuss the local media makes of the stuff that blows across from the Gobi Desert)

Also, as high and low pressure cells battle it out for supremacy, I can expect head winds from the north as I cycle to work, and head winds from the south as I cycle home.  (In addition to dust storms!)

Hail Me!

9 Feb

You’re never too old to learn.

As spring approaches, relatively warm air currents blow up from the south, but for the next month or so we can expect gales as high and low pressure cells battle it out across the Kanto Plain.

Riding to work during a strong northerly is not much fun, mostly because north is the direction I most need to travel.  Picking up speed going downhill becomes difficult…


Grey clouds cover the sky above me, but I can see the edge and clear sky further north.  Even the mountains in Gunma are visible.

Streaks start whizzing down, but there is no sign of rain.  Then I realise that it’s hail.


Japanese has two words for hail.

One is arare (), the other is hyo ().

Consulting a couple of dictionaries, I finally learn the difference.

Arare is small hailstones (the Bureau of Meteorology defines it as less than 5mm in diameter) that fall in autumn or winter.  Hyo are larger hailstones that fall in spring or summer.


I’ve learned something new.

I was caught in arare.

Have You Ever Seen the Rain?

21 Jan

After more than a month it finally rained – then snowed, then rained again – yesterday.

What may be surprising for people in other climes is how the weather functions in this part of the world.


Tokorozawa receives over 1500 mm of rainfall annually, most of that falling in August and September, while June has the highest number of rainy days.

Summers are notorious for their high relative humidity – even temperatures in the low 20’s can feel uncomfortable, but they may go up to the mid 30’s.  My private joke is “if you want a glass of water in the summer, just squeeze a handful of air”, but at 80% or more humidity, no-one finds it funny.  It’s sometimes like living in a sauna.

Even on sunny days, there is a haze on the horizon.


Winter is the extreme opposite.  December, January and February combined have fewer rainy days than June, and both the temperature and humidity plummet.  Single digit daytime maximums are not uncommon, and relative humidity may fall to 25% or less.  

Clear days offer stunning views of Mt. Fuji and the Chichibu-Okutama mountains, but are murderously cold and sap the moisture from one’s skin.

The cold plays havoc indoors too.  What little humidity there is condenses on cold surfaces like windows and drips onto the floor.

Winter is the busiest time for the local fire brigade because most people use portable kerosene heaters, and the wood in the house construction becomes tinder-dry.


As I write this, rain and sleet are falling and a puddle of condensation has gathered at the base of my windows.  The forecast is for a cold, wet and miserable weekend.

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