June through October is Typhoon Season here in Okinawa! The winds will howl, the rains will fall, and you’ll undoubtedly get a few days off school to watch these exciting natural wonders blow by if they hit your area full on. Many new JETs worry about the destructive winds that come with these annual weather wonders (some reach speeds upwardsof 140mph) but there is no need for concern. Everything in made of concrete here for a reason! There are however a few things you can do to prepare yourself for these typhoons, and make your experience more enjoyable! Click here for a Typhoon Preparation Checklist !
1) Make sure you have someone to call to find out if you have to go to school. Arrange this with your supervisor BEFORE a typhoon comes! School is canceled according to whether the buses are running or not. The decision to close school or not is usually made around 6am that morning, and once the decision is made, it will be broadcast on the TV using the scrolling typhoon updates at the top of the screen. Look for the kanji 休校 (kyuukou) which means schools are closed, along with the kanji for the area you live in. Always good to call your Supervisor/another teacher if you are unsure.
2) The day before the typhoon hits, stock up on possible stuff to do…videos, books, beer,cards…so if you get stuck in your house for a few days you won’t get stir crazy.
3) Remote Island JETs: The boats- with all the food- may not be coming for a few days before or after the typhoon so stock up of food before everyone else does! Perishable foods tend to sell out very quickly so a couple days or so before the typhoon is best to buy all the milk, eggs, bread, etc. that you think you might need.
4) It’s always a good idea to have lots of water around- both bottled for drinking and filled for washing machines or bathtubs, washing, toilet, etc. The water does get cut off every once in awhile
5) Make sure you have flashlights, batteries, and candles where you can find them.
6) Have extra batteries around for flashlights, radios, etc. Electricity can get cut off during a typhoon, which also means no A/C. Maybe keeping a fan on hand wouldn’t be a bad idea. Also having things to do that don’t require electricity will keep you from going insane.
7) Don’t leave stuff outside! It can be rather embarrassing to fetch your flippers, umbrellas, and floaty devices off your neighbor’s porch the next day.
8) Close your typhoon shutters if you have them! Make sure you know how to shut your typhoon shutters if you have them. Have someone teach you well before a typhoon comes.
9) Have a typhoon party! If you know one is coming, invite all your mates over for a video marathon or a game of Risk. It makes the hours go by much faster.
10) When it’s all over, make sure to clean up around your apartment/house and retrieve anything you have lost.
Remember, they are really not so bad. They can even be fun (so long as your roof isn’t leaking and you aren’t sleeping in the bathroom like some unfortunate island neighbors!). It’s like a mini vacation only you’re stuck in your house or at a typhoon nomikai.
There will be constant typhoon broadcasts on radio and TV (all in Japanese), or for those of you who have AFN, you can get typhoon reports there in English.
Japan Meteorological Agency
Wave Heights for the outer islanders
Joint Typhoon Warning Center
Or call on base 938-1111, wait for dial tone, then dial 634-4081 for a weather recording in English. Remember, the bases use a different system (and tend to be more paranoid) so just because the base schools are closed, does not mean that Okinawan schools are closed.
Cell Phone Message Board Systems
Japan has its fair share of earthquakes and typhoons and sometimes these are strong enough to cause very serious damage. Although Okinawa is well fortified against typhoons and rarely has earthquakes, the possibility of a disaster occurring is always present. In the event of a major natural disaster, most cell phones will be out of service as communication lines get too overloaded and many power lines are damaged. To help avoid panic and chaos, DoCoMo, au, and Softbank have created message board systems so you can leave a message on your phone to tell people where you are and if you are okay.
AU Disaster Alerts
Docomo Disaster Alerts
SoftBank Disaster Alerts
Thank you to the PAs in Sendai for putting these resources together! Please see the websites for each mobile phone carrier for more info about Message Board Services.