Coming from the Midwest, the Tokyo weather is rather different then what I’m used to. Living near the coast and on an island nation brings different weather patterns as well as different preparations.
When we first arrived here in August the Tokyo weather was quite humid, more so then back home, and one could definitely feel summer in full blast for the first couple of weeks. It was a good time to break out the parasols for the sunny sky, which is a common practice here. Many Japanese people walked around during the heat with a shading umbrella over their heads. I thought about getting one for myself, since I burn rather easily, but I never got around to it. Some of the parasol designs were really lovely, so it was always a colorful parade walking down a busy street in Shibuya on a scorching Saturday afternoon
As September hit the rainy season started to swing in and umbrellas became more popular. Tokyo knows rain and is well equipped, even selling big, rather durable umbrellas at the hundreds of convenience stores all around the city, and only for 400 yen. I picked one up myself as it turned out to cover a larger area then the umbrella I brought did, and it withstood the wind a bit better. Many places in Tokyo, including stores, our dorms, and some restaurants have an area outside or just inside the doors where umbrellas can be stored. Just remember to grab it on the way out! The people in Japan are cautious to take an umbrella other than their own, though, so even if you accidentally leave it you’ll find your umbrella waiting when you return. Having not lived in a large city before I wasn’t really used to ‘umbrella traffic’ when walking down the street. Umbrellas will collide, catch, and bounce off each other if the holder isn’t careful but the clever solution to this is one person holding their umbrella higher up to avoid collision. I have yet to see umbrellas cause an issue and people don’t even bat an eye at a hundred of them crossing the street.
The rain is just a precursor to another early fall Japanese phenomenon – typhoons. Tropical storms hit the area from time to time and September begins the ‘typhoon season’ here. The typhoons usually consist of high winds and rain and are more likely hit is severe near the coasts than the inner city. We’ve had two so far this year, one in mid-September and the other recently in mid-October. Neither was really devastating in Tokyo though there was some flooding in coastal areas and in Kyoto. Since a lot of the storm passed during night hours it was easy to sleep though it. Temple University halted undergraduate classes during the last typhoon in case of the trains closing and transportation being down as well so as to not put the students in danger. Since these are common weather occurrences there are plenty of precautions put in to place.
At our dorms we have evacuation areas, one of which we used to have a group drill over. In case of fires caused by storm, accident, or a failed cooking experiment there are places to evacuate outside the building toward the river that runs out front. Our doors have a handy guide on them to show stairway locations and which one we’d make our way to during an emergency since the elevators will be down. My personal favorite feature of the evacuation, though, is that if your door is on fire and there’s no way out of the room you can make your way to the balcony and kick down the dividers between yours and your neighbors. What a great way to greet your neighbor! A little ‘hi-yah!’ and there goes the divide and you can just knock on their balcony door and ask to use their door to evacuate because your kitchen is smoking! The miniature kitchens in our rooms are located right next to the door so a cooking experiment might be the cause of getting trapped. There’s no open flames allowed in our rooms though and the only heating implement we have is just a heating pad for boiling water.
Another somewhat common occurrence in Japan is earthquakes and so far the only one we’ve had this semester had been slight shaking I haven’t even noticed. We’ve been given safety procedures at both the school and the dorms and both provided us with a map of evacuation areas and other tips. The dorms have been changed over the years as well into the current, more reinforced buildings like the Kitano dorm we’re at now. I don’t really have any huge worries about earthquakes hitting since we’ve been so well prepared out of necessity.
I’m really enjoying Tokyo as the fall weather starts to roll around. The wind chill is the perfect time to bring out a nice, fuzzy coat and enjoy the fresh, cool air. I’ve always preferred cold weather so the fall temperature is the most comfortable. At the beginning of November I’ll be heading up north for one of the school-lead trips and we’re sure to see some beautiful fall scenery as the leaves start to turn!