Day One: In the midst of a typhoon, again

Aardvark on our balcony. That’s a real Eames chair – Don checked it out – so why it’s out on the balcony is beyond me. We took pity on it during the typhoon and brought it in.

Apparently, arriving in Japan in the midst of a typhoon is becoming a pattern for us. When we arrived in 2011, we woke up our first morning in Japan and, full of jet-lagged energy, trotted outside despite some horrible rain and fierce wind, unwittingly wandering around in a major typhoon (that may be why I have such fondness for the giant Yodabashi Camera in Kichijoji – we spent hours in the 7- or 9- or whatever story building, since there was so much to do – including an entire floor of restaurants – without having to go back into the chaotic weather).

This time, we knew Typhoon Malakas was predicted. So although it was not yet raining when our flight from Seoul landed, we were not surprised that, by the time we’d gone through immigration and retrieved our luggage, it was pouring.

We had some time before our Airbnb rental would allow us to check in at 3, so we hung out in Narita Airport, taking advantage of having a luggage cart to lug our stuff.

Time out here:

I am going to brag about what a great packing job we did! Because I worked really, really hard to make sure we brought everything necessary but nothing too much. We were challenged with packing for a family of three, for three months, straddling three seasons: our journey began in the heat and humidity of late summer, but will end in the cold and possibly even snow of mid-December.** That is no easy feat! But we managed to get it all into two checked bags, one regular carry-on roller bag (and one mini-roller bag, which is Aardvark’s) and then we each had one personal item. [Also, it is why you will see us in the same 3 shirts for each season. And why most of these clothes will probably not survive the return trip – we will likely never want to see them again!]

But that is still way too much luggage to fit in nearly any taxi trunk, and certainly to lug around on subways and trains that are not wheelchair/stroller/luggage friendly.

Getting Home in a Typhoon

So we hung out at Narita before making our way via train to Takadanobaba Station. By the time we arrived at our train station, it was chucking down rain pretty fiercely. We couldn’t all take a taxi, because we did not bring a car seat for Aardvark. So we pulled out the baby carrier (I am SO GLAD I picked up a toddler sized Kinderpack before this trip, because it has come in handy so much this past week. In Seoul, we were walking around about 5-6 miles a day, according to my Vivofit watch. And Aardvark was trekking right alongside us with very little carrying. We didn’t even bring the baby carrier out unless we were going out to dinner with family and she was likely to fall asleep on the way home. But Japan is so stroller un-friendly I’d figured we’d need a better method. And arriving in pouring rain, unable to take a taxi, the KP was a life-saver.) and I popped across the street to the Family Mart to pick up one of the transparent umbrellas ubiquitous in Japan. Aardvark and I helped Don get the luggage to a major street so he could hail a cab, and once he was loaded into the taxi, we made our way home (I should point out that my sweet spouse was very conflicted about this arrangement. As the fluent Japanese speaker, he was the best choice to take the taxi and communicate with the driver. But, as the fluent Japanese speaker – and someone who has lived in Japan for about 6 years – he was also the obvious choice to make his way, for the first time ever – to our new apartment on his own with a 3 year old on his back. He argued that we should get a tea and snack at a cafe while he should take the taxi with all the luggage, drop it off, and then walk back to meet us and guide us home. And I have no doubt he would have done that without complaint if I’d agreed to it. But, I was ready to be done traveling, and quite honestly, I did not want to be the one to lug the luggage up to our 4th floor apartment. I am not as wonderful as Don is. So I insisted we’d be fine.

And we were. To an extent. I did have to ask a few cell phone hawkers on the street to help me, but they very sweetly did, and I’m so glad, because what looked like a “major” street on my map was not very major at all, and I never would have found the road I needed without help (most non-major streets do not have real names, so of course my Google maps printout did not identify any names to help match the map to real streets. And I don’t have cell service in Japan, and wouldn’t be picking up the Pocket Wifi until arriving in the apartment, so using my phone was not an option). But that also means we got to see our new neighborhood right away – the little canal that runs behind our apartment, the many restaurants and a little fruit shop that line the major/not-major road across the canal from us, and other things we were excited to go back out and explore.

So Aardvark and I picked our way to our new apartment and as soon as the kimchi we’d brought from Korea was in the fridge, we all headed back out, rain be damned. (Sure, we didn’t get much further than the Family Mart – another convenience store – a few blocks away and then a grocery store to pick up items for breakfast, but it held us over until the next day.)

(Sadly, we did not encounter any dogs that look like David Boreanaz.)

So what have we learned? 

That the waterfall outside our balcony is a great barometer for how bad the rain is:


This is what it looks like right now (I just took the photo; today is the sunniest day we’ve had since arriving. Which is to say, overcast, but I wouldn’t take an umbrella with me when leaving)


This is what it looked like full of rain.


And this was full-on typhoon, so full there was practically no “fall”to the waterfall at all.

It is pretty astonishing though – as soon as it starts raining, the canal/creek fills right up – and within  few hours of the rain stopping, it’s back to normal again.

There’s really no need to explore and sightsee in a typhoon.

Well, I wish I could say we learned that. In 2011, we were so excited to be in Japan – and I was so new to it (and we were so hellbent on kicking jet lag, not an issue for us this time since we’d already been in the time zone for almost two weeks) that we were determined to stay out and explore our then-new neighborhood of Kichijoji. This time around, we felt like, eh. We’d been going non-stop in Seoul; we’ll be in Takadanobaba for months; it will actually be nice to hunker down in our new home, get unpacked and settle in, (maybe catch up on the blog) and relax a bit.

But of course, before we could do that, we needed to make sure we set for a day or two at home. So we rain-geared up, stopped at the 100 Yen store for hangers and baskets and places to put our stuff, hopped on the Yamanote to Ikebukuro, picking up a rice cooker at Bic Camera (since this is an Airbnb place, most people don’t stay long enough to have as much luggage as we do – so there were 5 hangers and not a single drawer except for the the silverware drawer in the kitchen, nor do they cook here, really), and then stopped at Seiyu on the way home for groceries. It was CHUCKING down, and we were absolutely drenched when we got home. I forgot I’d brought rain boots, and my sneakers were soaked through.

So bring on the typhoon. We were ready to stay put. Plus, how much worse was it going to get, if it was raining so hard right now?

Apparently, not much worse. Despite feeling no pressure to force ourselves to be good tourists in a typhoon, we misread the weather report. When it said the typhoon was reaching Tokyo “tonight,” it must have meant, well, that evening – like, starting right when we left at 4 pm. Because by the middle of the night, the storm had stopped. The rain was just normal drizzle, the river slowed back down to a creek. It turns out that yet again, we were out and about in the worst of the typhoon, totally clueless (thankfully Malakas was much less severe than the typhoon we encountered in 2011. For us and for Japan, which has been slammed by typhoons quite a bit in the past month.)

Next time, Japan. Next time we visit for a while, and you throw a typhoon at us, we will have it all sorted out. I’m pretty sure.


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