Heavy Rain in Tokyo

Written by on August 30, 2008 in Photo Posts, Photos and Stories in Progress with 1 Comment


Last night it started to rain and lightening streaked the sky. I remember thinking that my kids have never experienced a good lightening storm. We have typhoons in Tokyo (hurricanes in reverse), but we rarely have the kind of thunder and lightening that sends children running to their parents.

It turns out I got my wish. The storm seemed to pass, and then it returned and hovered over us. For the next four hours we had heavy rain with an almost constant barrage of light and sound. The kids were terrified and couldn’t sleep. They finally drifted off well after midnight.

The river at normal water level (see the first photo to compare)I took the first photo above sometime around 11:30am. It was dark, so I used the lightening as a flash. Normally the river looks like the photo to the left. Last night it had risen to within a meter or so of the top of the wall (3 to 4 meters deep).

About 2am my wife and I were still awake watching TV. News reports were coming in, and we learned that our area was being hit hard. In our neighborhood, six families had been told to evacuate, and in another neighborhood a short walk away the residents of 133 homes were being told to move to higher ground.

We finally went to bed. My wife cracked open the rice paper door, so we could see the river from our beds. Maybe she figured we’d notice in her sleep if it rose up to our doorstep. Probably (she’s a light sleeper in cases like this).

By morning the rain had stopped and the river had retreated a few feet, although it remained very high all day. We took a walk later in the day to see what had happened during the night.

Our own street had become a small river apparently. The owner of an Izakaya on the corner was clearing mud and water out of his building, and all the parking lots were filled with mud. But I didn’t see any signs of major damage. The situation was the same out on the main road. I assume the street cleaners had been working since early morning, and there was just a thin coating of mud.

I crossed the tracks and walked up into the neighborhood that had been hardest hit. There was a family, a mother and three kids, walking the same direction. By chance, they had been at their grandmother’s house the night before and missed the storm. The mother had been up watching the news, so she was nervous as they headed home.

Railroad workers were out cleaning the tracks. Men with shovels were clearing mud out of the bicycle parking lot. And dump trucks passed loaded with mud and rocks. Eventually we came to a mudslide that was blocking the road. It seemed to have passed between houses, so no terrible damage had been done.

I came across the three kids, who were curiously surveying the damage, just like me. Most of the people who I saw, though, were in their sixties and beyond. They were out with shovels and wheelbarrows putting things back in order, and they responded with smiles when I talked to them.

It’s late now. It’s hitting me as I type. Time to go to bed. They’re predicting another rainstorm tonight, but so far it’s quiet.

About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is a writer and photographer living in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and working with Alongsiders International. You can find him puttering around the streets of Phnom Penh on his Suzuki Viva 125, running stoplights and driving on the wrong side of the road or on the sidewalks like a local. If you see him in a coffee shop, he'll be the one typing and deleting the same line over and over again. .


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  • James

    Hello! This is one of my favorite sets you have done! i love documented storms, and before/after photo’s. Let’s see some more in the future! Great stuff!