Sunday, March 22, 2009

Wow... I Don't Think People Realize How Windy Japan Is...

A Fed-Ex jet crashed while attempting to land in heavy winds at Narita Airport. The pilot and co-pilot died, which is tragic. But this isn't the first time aircraft have encountered trouble from winds here, and it just serves to emphasize how insanely breezy Japan becomes at times.

Toyohashi and Hamamatsu are the two windiest places I've ever been in my life. Toyohashi was so windy that you could almost use an umbrella as a sail while riding your bicycle on rainy days. The only problem is, the winds tend to swirl so you wouldn't be able to go in a straight line. And they'd probably pluck the umbrella out of your hand and throw it across town given the chance. I've seen old people knocked over on their bikes by the wind here in Hamamatsu, just bowled right over to land on the sidewalk in a heap, air forced right out of their lungs in a great wheezy sigh.

Older people regularly hop off their bikes and walk them downtown, because the tall buildings turn streets and sidewalks into wind tunnels.

I've had strange things blow up onto my fifth floor balcony. Right now there's a girl's floral flipflop lying out there. Who does it belong to? Where did it come from? I'd throw it away but it'll probably take off on the spring winds by itself before I get over my laziness and OCD-inspired reluctance to touch it. That's what happened to the silver tall boy Asahi beer can that appeared on my balcony last spring. It stayed out there for about two weeks, then vanished. Probably jumped to the next balcony over. People's laundry regularly takes off and lands on the sidewalk downstairs; I fix mine to my clothesline with plastic laundry pins.

Another wind-based phenomenon are the hazy days caused by sand blowing in from China. Grit high in the atmosphere washes out the sun. The day I learned of this, I'd been wind-whipped with sand right in the face on my way to work. I had to wonder if the mote in my eye came from the Gobi Desert.

In about a month, we'll have the famous Hamamatsu Matsuri. It involves flying giant kites down by the seashore. A few years ago, conditions were so bad one of the kites crashed into the crowd and injured several people. I'm sure its flying team felt pretty low after that. But it's not really surprising when you consider how careful pilots must be when approaching their landings at Japan's airports.

Wind. Empty winds, divine winds. Deadly winds of Japan.

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