Typhoon return

09Sep07

With completely impeccable timing I managed to fly into Narita after a month-long sojourn back in the States just in time to meet up with a largish typhoon that was sweeping the area. The typhoon hadn’t hit ground when the plane landed, so there were no issues there, but I still had to get from Tokyo to Osaka via the Shinkansen (the so-called “bullet train”), and that ended up being a little bit of a problem. By the time the train reached Atami, a city in Shizuoka Prefecture that’s famous for it’s hot springs, the winds in Shizuoka and Nagoya had reached 25km/hr. and the train stopped. There was a very nice woman from Kyoto sitting next to me on the train who made sure that I was up-to-date with all the new developments, though it became pretty clear pretty fast that there would be no developments for a while since the driver of the train kept repeating the same announcement about every 15 minutes: “Winds in Shizuoka and Nagoya Prefectures are still high. It’s uncertain when we will be able to begin moving again. Until that time, the train will remain stopped at Atami station.” The woman sitting next to me then informed me that sometimes — though it had never happened to her personally — people ended up having to spend the night on the train during a severe typhoon. I couldn’t wait. Rain bucketed and winds gusted.

Luckily, four hours later the train began to move again, though it had to stop at every station between Atami and Nagoya for safety reasons, and of course the train couldn’t even begin to start to close in on those speeds that might be called “bullet-like.” What’s normally a 2.5 or 3 hour train trip ended up taking almost exactly 8 hours. I was lucky to have made it back to Osaka at all, and clearly I was on one of the last trains that had been allowed out of the gate that afternoon. Shin-Osaka station was positively packed with people who were stranded there for the night, plunked down with their luggage wherever they could find a space that had some sort of look of comfort about it. JR employees with bullhorns were standing near the exit gates making announcements and guiding fairly large crowds of people from one place to another. Of course, since it was 12:30 at night all of the local trains had gone to sleep and I was going to have to take a taxi. And so were the other 300 or so people who had also been on the shinkansen with me. Have you ever stood in a cab queue of 300 people? Neither had I until the other night. A remarkably tolerant line of groggy travelers, and a never-ending stream of cabs arriving to take people off. I was finally home and in bed at sometime between 1:30 and 2:00 in the morning after having started off in Boulder, Colorado, only about 40 hours before.



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