Journey in Japan Part 27: Nothing happens until something moves

Journey in Japan Part 27: Nothing happens until something moves

I have to walk ten minutes from my Nagoya hotel to a different hotel with my laundry. The rain is hard, the super typhoon has made landfall, and the rain and wind are stronger than I have ever experienced. But I need to do my laundry. The sky outside is the darkest grey. I eventually find the other hotel. Luckily the coin laundry is accessed directly from the street,  sparing me the awkwardness of going into a hotel that I am not staying at just to use their facilities.

The laundry room is accessed through a shutter door that is currently prised open by what looks like a rotten plank of wood; a little worrying. Outside, noisy construction work is taking place, despite the weather. The noise makes it rather difficult to concentrate on my book. I plan to spend as little time as possible outside today, so there is no point traipsing back through the storm just yet.

Inside the coin laundry, the room is dirty. The old vending machines no longer dispense detergent; luckily for me I bought a ¥28 single-wash sized pouch on the way here. I sit reading, waiting for my clothes, occasionally glancing up at the dirty walls.

Laundry done, I head back to the hotel as fast as I can. On the way, I see abandoned inside-out umbrellas dumped on the street. I watch as people duck and dive into shelter. I see areas of the pavement completely flooded. Meanwhile, the sound of sirens fill the air.

Back at the hotel I sit by the balcony on the second floor of the lobby, quietly reading my book. I don’t mind the rainy days really, I quite like the peace of sitting in silence reading. It seems a lot of people are holed up in the hotel today. Every now and then someone will walk to the window, see that it is still raining, then go and sit back down. We are all waiting for the typhoon to pass.

At 3pm I am allowed back into my room. As I hairdryer my shoes, I keep an eye on the news. After a short while I hear the words, “Nagoya Station.”

There on the news is the train station. Taxi’s parked outside, rain falling. The typhoon has moved north now, but the backlash of rain stills falls. The Bullet Trains have all been cancelled.

Japan’s biggest broadcaster NHK seem to love this sort of stuff; for the next two hours all they talk about is the typhoon. Cut to: Windscreen wipers frantically moving back and forth. Cut to: Drains overflowing. Cut to: Businessmen trying to juggle briefcases and carry an umbrella, then whoosh the umbrella flies inside-out. Cut to: All of the bicycles blown over by the wind. Cut to: Rivers overflowing. Cut to: Trees shaking in the wind. This is about all I see for twenty minutes, then the footage repeats, and then repeats.

Outside, the rain looks like a white sheet being hung over the skyline. The wind is stronger now. It blows the rain sideways, so much so that it is very difficult to see the buildings in the distance. The last super typhoon I experienced passed miserably through the night; I never really got to see the chaos that it caused. Sitting here, I realise just how gloomy and grey today has been.

Eventually the rain stops, and the wind dies down. At 7pm I head out to the twenty-four hour supermarket. On the way I pass I sign about littering. Ten million yen fine and five years imprisonment. Inside the supermarket, a digitally transposed version of Dreams by the Cranberries is playing. I buy some cheese and a small bottle of wine. At the self-service checkout I scan the wine, a message pops up, “Are you over twenty? yes/no.” I press ‘yes’ and then finish and pay. No one around to check, just press ‘yes’. Honesty is the best policy.

On the way back I pass a restaurant with a full set of Christmas lights. The full works.

Back at the hotel, I Skype with a friend from England. After that, I get deep into my reading, until I finish my book. At 10pm I head out to my nearest Family Mart to pick up some food. Inside Family Mart that same Japanese song with the nice melody is playing. I can just make out a few words, it will hopefully be enough to find out what it is.

When I return, I turn my attention to Japanese pop music. I listen to the top 30 songs in this week’s Japanese Billboard Charts. At 9th and 10th are two different songs from the same artist. A song from the anime Sailor Moon is in the top ten. AKB48 sister-band, SKE48 are number one. The song I am trying to find is nowhere to be heard.

Instead, I find myself staring at this sign in my hotel room:

I do eventually find out the name of the song that I keep hearing. It turns out it is a cover version of that other song I keep hearing, the one from Disney’s Frozen: ‘Let it Go’. A Japanese version played on piano, sounding very different to the English version, and a lot better too. I spend the rest of my evening listening to different Japanese versions of ‘Let it Go’ on YouTube, but can’t find the particular version I like. I probably shouldn’t have admitted that though. I cannot bear the responsibility.

Read the next part of my Journey in Japan, where I leave Nagoya and head to the ghostly seaside town of Hamamatsu, and get lost in the woods by clicking here.

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From England, Luke is a writer and editor living on the edge of Tokyo. He enjoys finding the strange and wonderful amongst the seemingly mundane moments of everyday life and travel, and writing about them.

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