A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Typhoon Related Downpour Leads to Massive Flooding in Neighboring Ishige- And Evacuations From Riverside Homes Here in Tsukuba


The Kinugawa River overflowed in Ishige (Joso City) - Tsukuba`s neighbor to the west- on September 10th. Dozens needed to be rescued and thousands are now homeless. (photo fro the Yomiuri newspaper.

On September 10th, the Kinugawa River in Ishige (Joso City) – Tsukuba`s neighbor to the west- burst through its embankements or s at some spots simply overflowed. Hundreds needed to be rescued and thousands are now homeless- with nine still missing. (photo from the Yomiuri newspaper. About 700 refugees for the disaster are now sheltering at the Tsukuba Koryu Center (in Hojo, Tsukuba) and the Toyosato Koryu Center (in Toyosato, Tsukuba)

By Avi Landau

It had been raining steadily, and very hard, all night long. When I left the house this morning (September 10th) it was still coming down- in biblical proportions. But like most Tsukubans, I saw the overwhelming barrage of wetness as an inconvenience- though an amazing one – something that had to be dealt with in order to get to where I had to get to.

I didn`t realize that just a few kilometer to the west, lives – and houses were being turned upside-down. I got a hint of it at a ramen shop just before noon. All of a sudden several smart phones went off at one- and very loudly. I  was puzzled by the fact that everyone seemed to have the same ring tone. Then I realized that it was  a DISASTER WARNING being sent to subscribers- I thought: ” Oh no! Not another earthquake coming!” But then I heard the chatter of the people with the phones- the ones who had received the warnings- there was danger of flooding in Tsukuba. The Sakura River was at dangeously high levels. People living along it were being ordered to evacuate. That meant thousands of people from the neighborhoods of Kamizakai, Sakae, Oh, Matsue and Matsuzuke would have to head for places of refuge (or the homes of friends or relatives).

Flooding along the Kinu River on September 10, 2015

Flooding along the Kinu River on September 10, 2015

Still, none of the people in the ramen shop seemed very perturbed. It was only a warning- nothing had happened yet- and everyone was too busy wolfing down their noodles- everyone including me.

Well, its banks seem to have contained the Sakura (within the Tsukuba City limits)- but the news from over in the next town- Ishige (now part of Joso City) was shocking. The Kinu River had run over its banks and hundreds of homes, businesses, factories, farms, nursing homes, etc. have been flooded- or washed away. Helicopters scoured the area for anyone stranded. More than ten were rescued- but nine people are still listed as missing (as of 11 pm on September 10th)

Historically this area has not been subjected to many eathquakes- and it is one of the farthest places in the Japanese archipelago from an active volcano. Still, until the past 20 years, flooding was almost an annual disaster. This is evidenced by the existence of centuries old riverside Shinto shrines  whose deities were supposed to prevent the rivers from going berserk. These had no real positive effect, of course, and unfortunately, it was only with concrete enbankments, watergates, dams and concrete river banks that created safer – though much uglier- riverside environments.

Well, I can hear the crickets outside chirping- the rain has finally stopped. There is calm all around. Unfortunately, for those who live across the city border to the west, peace will not be restored for a long time- if ever. Let`s hope that those who are missing are found and that the people can get back to their homes a soon as possible- though by looking at the horrific footage being shown on tv and the internet- its going to be much longer than soon before things get back to normal.





  • Update says:

    This morning I turn on the TV and find more scenes of devatation. The worst flooding in this area in 50 year. As of 8 AM on the 11th, the number of missing is now at 12 while those trapped by the floods ( and have been in contact with authorities by cell phone, etc) has surpassed 1,400. As the day goes on there is no forgetting about what is going on over across the Kokkai River (which separates us from the devastated areas- the Kinu River is the next river past the Kokai to the West) with helicopters continuously streaming overhead on their way to carry out rescue missions- and encounters with people with relatives in Ishige, Shimotsuma, or Mitsukaido, who have been driven out of their homes by the waters…… this is not good…….

  • Alice says:

    Was concerned about you and your family. Glad that you all were safe. It is really sad for those are suffering. We prayed for them during Sunday service in church yesterday.

  • Joso City Flood Post Update says:

    Its almost a week since the waters of the Kinugawa River (appropriately river with the characters meaning ANGRY DEMON RIVER) first started flow over the embankments meant to contain them (one story that has come it is of a local resident who had a solar panel field installed – and the contractor who carried out the work lower the adjacent embankment by 2 meters so the panles would get more sunshine- that was one of the first overflow points and that contractor has subsequently taken off somewhere to escape the media). Evacuation orders were issued, but things did not go smoothly. One reason for this is that Joso City is a new entitiy, formed after the merger of two older cities (towns) Mitsukaido and Ishige. Apparently communication between these to parts of the city was not as good as it should be- and this had disasterous results.
    The initial flooding from overflow brought in firemen and other rescue workers. There were also plenty of people who did not heed or get the evacuation order, When the embankment then burst at various point and the water really came pouring into the city with terrific force- all these people were very quickly taken by surprise and dangerously trapped ( a group of rescue workers from the Tsukuba University Hospital included- they had to be helicoptered out.)
    For the next few days, helicopters could been seen and heard continuously flying over Tsukuba on rescue missions, lifting those stranded within the 10 square kiolmeters of the city that were flooded. For days scenes of these rescues- some just in time, as houses were beeing swept away, were being shown on the tv.
    As evacuees fled the affected area they needed places to take shelter. Hundreds ended up in Tsukuba City- in Yatabe and Toyosato. Many Tsukubans went out to buy food and clothes to bring to the places of refuge. They were turned away – for reasons og privacy they were told – though a few persistent people were able to drop off their care packages.
    Among the people volunteering to help were those who specialized in rescuing pets – and you can see the evacuated dogs outside the Toyosato Community Center (you might want to contribute some dog food).
    If you were watching the disaster unfold on televion, you might have noticed that many of the houses being washed away looked brand new. They were. Many people living in the affected area had recently recieved huge sums of mony after being asked to move becuase of the construction of a prefectural road. Many built very expensive new house with the cash – a good way to avoid inheritance tax. Unfortunately many of these new homes were the ones you saw being swept away.
    One of my friends relatives had their new house built by PANA-HOME and I was told that just after the waters started to recede- eight representatives of the company were there to see what they could do. As to the other unfortunate people who lost there homes- I`m not sure yet what they are going to do, or how much they we get in compensation- if anything at all.
    A lot of rice was also destroyed. This, however, will be covered by the government and the farmers will get paid in full for what was destroyed.
    Some more surprising tv footage was taken in the seaside port of Choshi- at the mouth of the Tone River. So much debris has been carried down strean that the fishing port is completely clogged up making it difficult for the fishing boats to move.
    To be continued…