30 October 2010


On my second day in Fujieda there was what I later learnt, is called a typhoon in Japan. Essentially it rained pretty heavily. And don't get me wrong, I dislike rain as much as anyone, 'any cold, wet thing, I don't really...', but it was not the mythical, exciting storm I was expecting when I heard about Japanese typhoons. In fact, now that I google it:

a tropical cyclone or hurricane of the western Pacific area and the China seas.
a violent storm or tempest of India.

And google image it:

You see, I'd wrongly assumed that I had the wrong impression of typhoons before coming to Japan. Surely, all these Japanese people calling heavy rain typhoons must be right, living as they do on the continent where typhoons happen, but apparently not. Maybe there's a typhoon somewhere very far away sending us a little rain? I figure that's the only possible explanation, confirming as my googling does that a typhoon's a cyclone/hurricane...ala the first scene of the Wizard of Oz. I can only hope that the predicted magnitude of the Tokai earthquake is being similarly blown out of proportion..

Despite the uneventfulness of typhoons, they're pretty annoying. Anything other than dry, mild weather is annoying when you have to cycle in it. On waking up for the first time in Fujidea to the familiar sound of rainfall, I was a little worried that I'd be blamed for bringing the weather with me. Luckily, I had an old ama-gappa (Japanese rain gear) consisting of a jacket and trousers that my predecessor had left me to weather my first Japanese storm.

As she predicted, it soaked through after a while. The trousers were kinda short, reaching about halfway up my calves on the bike. The hood was far too small for my head so that rain was flying full on into my eyes..unideal since my lack of cycling coordination was close to landing my in a ditch anyway. (A lot of the residential roads in my area are flanked by deep ditches about 10cm wide, hazard!) The worst part though, was that the sleeves had no elastic around the cuffs, so the water ran down inside them, up my arms.

I avoiding buying a new ama-gappa for a good while. In September, the next 'typhoon' hit and I decided that arriving at school with soggy trouser-legs, face and sleeves wasn't ideal! I bought a dress-type thing at Apita, a department store near Fujieda train station. I though it would be convenient for wearing skirts with. It didn't soak through and the sleeves were elasticated, but unfortunately it only reached down to my knees on the bike, so the soaking trousers, shoes and socks problem continued..

Today, the third 'typhoon' has hit, as predicted..though it's been raining on and off recently as well. I had somehow managed to misplace my dress ama-gappa so last night I set out on a mission to make myself waterproof once and for all.

It started with opening packs of ama-gappa in Apita, trying on different sizes and styles. I'm not sure that they allow that, but I was hiding behind shelves of rain-gear so the staff couldn't see me..several other shoppers stared, but that could have been a gaijin thing. The hardest part was stuffing them back into their little plastic packets. I can tell you that I ripped more than one pack in the attempt. Partly due to guilt, and partly because it was decent, I bought my new ama-gappa there. It's black, with super long trousers, elasticated sleeves and best of all that oh-so-Japanese transparent part on the front of the hood, which allows you to pull it down over your eyes without impacting your peripheral vision.

The other typhoon measure I had resolved to take was purchasing wellies. Of course I change my shoes upon arrival at school, but that's not much good if my socks are already soaked through..I looked in Apita, the shoe shop in Bivi and finally ended up in Seiyu, an amazingly cheap chain of department stores. I'm informed that they're a classier version of Wall mart.

The problem I have with wellies, is that I've humongous calves which refuse to be shrouded in tight-fitting, non-stretchy, rubbery material. I explained this using gestures to a staff-member who approached me in one shop, and she recommended wellie-shoes. Unsure of how to gesture 'kill me already', I just shook my head. They were like wellies, but just shoe size, and each pair sported a brighter and zanier pattern than the last.

In the end, I went with a compromise, short wellies...possibly men's' short wellies at that, which meant at least that they were available in sober hues. In Seiyu there were ultra tight-fitting women's' ones and massive, loose-fitting men's' ones with no in between. I bought the smallest man-size which are just a little too big.

The cherry on my water-repellent cake is the gloves. I found them in Seiyu and they cost nearly as much as the ama-gappa, but with them I can guarantee scalp to sole dryness.

Now that I'm all kitted out, I was of course eagerly awaiting today's typhoon. Unfortunately, my plans for going out have been cancelled because of the typhoon so now I'm lacking a reason to venture outside..unnecessary trip to the combini anyone?

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