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  • Oyl Miller

Tokyo Typhoon Extreme Weather Tourists

Typhoon Hagabis turned the normally vibrant Shibuya into a barren, apocalyptic cityscape.

The biggest typhoon of the past several decades hit Tokyo last weekend. Living near the center of the city, we were curious what things would be like at ground zero, before the peak of the typhoon arrived.

Before we set out, we looked at a couple of live cams of Shibuya. There were only a handful of people out, toting umbrellas and braving the elements. But the winds didn’t seem to that intense at the moment, so we looked at each other and decided to go check it out first hand.

We rolled over to the bus stop a couple of minutes from our house. Luckily a bus was just pulling up when we arrived so we hopped on. There were only two other riders on the bus. So we could already feel the effects of the evacuation mentality. We rode all the way to Dogenzaka, making no stops on the way as no one was at any of the bus stops.

When we left the bus, it was only raining lightly. It was still sage to use your umbrella and not have it blown apart by high winds. We walked the deserted alleys and streets around Shibuya station. Many of the shops and cafes had fully boarded up windows, giving the whole environment the look of an apocalyptic movie set. We continued on, walking the empty streets and snapping the occasional rare photo of a barren Shibuya.

We were on a scouting mission to see if anything was open. Being around noon, we had lunch on our minds. With the boarded up windows, it didn’t look promising. However as we walked Basketball Street in central Shibuya, we saw a light burning brightly in the distance. As we approached the window, we discovered it was a ramen shop—working at full capacity. Just looking in the window, you wouldn’t guess the circumstances odd at all. Chefs moved in tight choreography. Spinning, draining scoops of noodles, stirring vats of steaming broth. All as happy customers slurped away as on any other day.

And who were all these fools inhaling ramen under these locked down circumstances? Were they all reflections of us? Disaster tourists? Or rugby fans eating off the pain of cancelled games. Or bitcoin miners waiting for the conference to resume.

After a leisurely and dry lunch, we headed back into the streets in search of more nothingness. The rain now more persistent. The drops bigger. But still no wind. We ducked into Don Quixote. The meme-like Japanese super everything store. Whose multi-jingles and enthusiastic staff were on full blast. Ramen and Don Quixote, the two pillars of Tokyo remained unfettered by the weather event outside.

We picked up some batteries and spare lightbulbs because they were on our shopping list. Then we walked on. The rain amping up even more.

At the crossing, cameras and reporters stood in the elements talking to the random handful of folks passing through. We were stopped. They were doing something for British TV, around rugby. But with the games called off, they turned into typhoon chasers. They asked if we were here for the rugby or the bitcoin. Sadly no. They asked if we thought the typhoon was going to be bad. I said something about reports usually being overblown. At which point a gust of wind blew back my umbrella, shattering the skeletal core beyond repair. With any luck, I’m some sort of meme to American ignorance in the UK thanks to the comic timing of a gust from the god of wind.

From the interview on, the weather turned increasingly violent. We turned into the tunnels above and below Shibuya station, and walked their empty halls. Every now and then we’d pass another explorer like us. Earlier we had thought of walking home, but with the winds, we caught a cab. One of a hundred lined up at the station after the buses and trains had stopped. We rode home and looked out the window for the rest of the day as the winds pended. The trust of the typhoon came at night, after the house was asleep. But our photos and videos of a barren Shibuya made our wet excursion to the city center worth it.

Shibuya's central "Basketball Street" was cleared out with all of the shops shuttered for the day.

A lone man walks the closed streets of Shibuya, surveying the scene.

The elements did what so many commercials and films write into their scripts--completely emptied Shibuya Crossing.

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