Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thunderstorm in the first week of May? Tornados in Japan!?

The month of May has gotten off to a shaky start this year. The weather has been finicky during the whole Golden Week (Wikipedia link on text) block of national holidays in Japan. I've experienced heavy winds and rain as well as sweltering hot days. So much for spring, it looks like we've jumped right into early summer with the kind of weather patterns we've been getting as of late.


A video of the thunderstorm and weather in my area recorded by me.

Ironically, today was the final day of the Golden Week holiday for many Japanese. Today was also an especially weird day for weather across most of Japan. The day started off as another beautifully clear and hot day but immediately snapped into a dark rainy afternoon. The change from sunny to cloudy was nearly instantaneous and was followed shortly with rumbling sounds of thunder in the distance. At first I thought there was a moving truck or something big bounding down a nearby street because thunder is very unseasonal this time of year. I was wrong though as we were just about to get pounded by a very fierce and unexpected thunder/lightning storm.


The dark clouds brought with them high winds, nearly horizontal rain, and painted the sky with lightening bolts. It was quite a sight to behold. Lucky for me my video camera was charged so I took some short videos from the safety of my balcony. During the strongest part of the storm there was even a tornado warning posted on local TV which was quite a surprise to my wife and me. It wasn't till much later that I found out one did really touch down but further north from where we live.

The tornado hit about 50km north of Tokyo in the Ibaraki-Tsukuba area. It ripped homes from their concrete foundations, tossed cars and trucks, as well as blowing out windows and roofs from buildings in its path. Seeing the aftermath of the very short tornado that touched down brought flashbacks of what happened after the tsunami back in March 11 2011. The devastation looks eerily similar. Japan is not prepared for weather like this and it shows well in the following YouTube embedded video.

I have sympathy for all the families and business caught up in this freakish weather. Many families and home owners will be displaced and shaken up for quite some time afterward. I wonder if damage incurred from a tornado is even covered in basic car and homeowner's insurance. Hopefully so because it would totally suck if all those people got shafted again.


Under normal conditions, Japan really doesn't get tornados although there have been a handful on record. Tornados happen so infrequently and on a much smaller scale than the one that hit on May 6th. Even I've witnessed large dust devils on the school's dirt lot from time to time. I am sure there would have been very little to nothing most people in the path of the tornado could've done to help themselves. Buildings here really aren't built with high winds and especially tornadoes in mind. As they shouldn't be because tornadoes aren't normal here. Despite all of the damage only one person perished in this freakish display of nature. It is always sad to find out someone lost their life to a natural disaster but the fact that only one out of many potential victims fell is quite incredible. But it is truly a shame that it was a young junior high school student. The kid didn't deserve an end like that.


So now that Japan has experienced a large and violent tornado, I wonder how weather will be monitored from now on. Also, will newer homes be designed sturdier in the center to at least give inhabitants a better chance of survival? I really can't say but I am sure this news will stay fresh in the eyes of Japan and the media for at least a week or more to come.


  1. I was in Tsukuba at the time of the tornado! Typhoons and earthquakes are one thing, but the tornado really surprised everyone. Luckily, no one I know was directly affected...

  2. It's nice to hear from someone who witnessed this event firsthand. Glad to hear no one you knew was in the path of the twister.

    The weather in southern Japan may not be as uniquely spectacular as a tornado but they've been getting pounded with heavy rain for the past month. This year has been an especially bad year for weather related disasters.