Early on Saturday morning, as raindrops tapped the windows outside, a letter appeared under the door of every room of Tokyo’s ANA Intercontinental Hotel.
Sent by the hotel manager to her guests, the letter was supposed to warn, as well as reassure.
Up on the 18th floor, one line stood out: ‘Our hotel was designed to move during strong winds so you may notice some related noise,’ it read. ‘Please do not be alarmed as this is completely normal.’
There is more at stake than the integrity of the Rugby World Cup as catastrophe approaches
Japan may be used to extreme weather, its buildings may be equipped to withstand the beating rain and thudding winds. But this was the latest indication that these are not normal times.
The previous night, the lively area of Shinjuku was a sea of see-through umbrellas as rain fell on the Japanese capital.
By early the next morning, the downpour had intensified and a fog was engulfing the city as Typhoon Hagibis made its way from the Pacific.
There were warnings of flooding, of landslides, of disruption to flights and trains, of damage to buildings and cars. Winds could reach record speeds (with gusts up to 135mph) and as much as a metre of rain was expected to fall in Tokyo in the space of 24 hours.
More than half a million households have been ordered to flee and come the early evening in the Tokyo suburb of Hachioji, flooding had already become so severe that the drainage system burst, causing water to gush out on to the street.
By then, of course, the country was already in the eye of a media storm as the Rugby World Cup descended into farce.
This was supposed to mark the start of a crucial weekend in the sport’s showpiece tournament.
After three comfortable wins, England were due to face France in nearby Yokohama, the winners guaranteed top spot in Group C.
Streets are quiet and residents have been advised against leaving their homes
The hotel warning issued by the manager outlined what to expect in the coming day
Instead, concerns over the weather prompted World Rugby to cancel both Le Crunch and New Zealand’s clash with Italy.
Come game day there were rather more pressing matters. Downstairs In the hotel lobby, a whiteboard kept guests updated with forecasts and travel information.
By 10am conditions were so bad that a 30-minute taxi ride to the Yokohama Stadium – where England and France were due to meet – was out of the question. ‘100. Per. Cent. No,’ the concierge said.
On Sunday, the stadium is meant to host Japan vs Scotland in a straight shootout for the quarter finals.
Just over 24 hours out from kick-off, the home side went through their captains run. To reach their training pitch, however, players and staff had to wade through knee-high water. Many were laughing, some practised their front crawl. But should their game be cancelled too, the authorities would be facing a PR disaster.
The problem is, catastrophe is already afoot in the host nation.
That is why a satellite picture of Typhoon Hagibis was splashed across the front page of Saturday’s Japan Times.
Typhoon Hagibis is already causing havoc in some areas but the worst is still yet to hit Japan
Public transport and general infrastructure has been completely thrown by the weather
The weather this weekend, they said, could rival the deadly typhoon of 1958 which left 1,200 people dead or missing.
Residents were advised to tape up their windows, to fill bathtubs, kettles and buckets with water in case they needed to flush toilets manually. Torches and lanterns, meanwhile, could be useful in case of a blackout.
Only on page 12 was the trickle down effect of the weather on rugby given more than a passing mention.
It wasn’t touched upon at all in the letter to hotel guests. Rather, the penultimate line read: ‘Witnessing the force of nature is a humbling reminder… (that) we are all human’.
There is more at stake here than the integrity of the Rugby World Cup and the surrounding streets said as much.
In these parts, the worst of Typhoon Hagibis is not expected until late on Saturday night but even before morning turned to afternoon – and the wind began to howl – the area was ghostly quiet.
Tall buildings in Japan are designed to deal with earthquakes and are flexible
Warnings are everywhere and the hotel have put plenty of notices up for their guests
Most shops and restaurants were closed, most streets almost entirely deserted.
Many of those braving the conditions were tourists. They included one man wearing a fresh white England shirt – and red chinos quickly turning a darker shade of maroon.
Sandbags could be seen outside doors but already Japan was being wrecked by devastation.
By late afternoon, local media reported that one man had died after his car had overturned. Rivers were bursting their banks and around 12,000 homes in the greater Tokyo area were without electricity.
Emergency sirens could be heard in the capital, with the worst of the storm still to come. Forecasters predict the skies will have cleared by Sunday. The damage caused in the meantime will take longer to heal.
Source : Mail Online