Last night, as the typhoon was still lashing Okinawa, when I got to the station at Ofuna and the train doors opened I just thought sea. The entire air had been convulsed and moiled, like a salty, kelp-loden interlude. I found it refreshing, inviting. A geographical shift; unexpected. As I walked up the hill to the house the air was mist-covered; shrouded, but clear. Touching, vaguely, on spooky, but more on the magical tip; with things and plants thrown into silhouetted, gloomy relief against the electric light of the moon, despite what a Japanese friend called, intriguingly, ‘this disquieting air’.
Today, as it rages across the country, offloading water by the godfull , causing all kinds of havoc in the southern prefecture of Kagoshima, Kyushu: where we are, near the capital, it was sunny this morning, only tinting into bruised and blowy by the afternoon, when the winds began to blow and the grasses by the river in the centre of Yokohama were streaming in undulation, as though they already somehow thought that they were swimming, under water – oceanic.
Tonight, coming home ( I should have taken the bus, of course but couldn’t resist being exposed to the rain), by 10pm it still felt safe enough to walk: the eye of this typhoon, weakened, in all probability by its journey across Japan, due to hit us directly at about 3am this morning – about three hours or so precisely from when I am typing this.
I wanted to smell it, though. To just breathe it in and see how it altered the landscape. Coming out of the station I hesitated to open my umbrella, at first, as the rain – warm, spattering, iodized, delicious – encountered my face in a lung-bathing softness of summer life wetness. I marvelled at the way that the pungent loam of recent moisture, of decaying white June flowers, vetiver grass, lilies and fire flies had been usurped, denied, by these winds that are freshening and replenishing the air with pine-kissed, mistral winds; the precursors, of levity, of the mammoth, swirling eye-storm you see in these pictures (taken of the supertyphoon at the zenith of its terrifying strength yesterday, from the Soyuz station,watching the whole scene serenely, keenly, from that galactical, fascinating vantage point of silent tranquillity in the sky) and which has unleashed its fury on other places across the continent but, which should, if the meteorological reports are to be believed, just pass over us tonight, not unpunished, but not destructive.
The balcony has been evacuated, just in case – all plants brought inside to prevent them flying away. The cat has gone out just now, briefly, but I know that she’ll be back soon in all probability (though this is definitely not guaranteed – this cat loves the hair-raising excitement of a typhoon (as do we, secretly; as do my students, too, when I asked them about it tonight) and you can sometimes hear her, with another of the neighbourhood cats , taking risks and running about, wildly, in wind and the rain, her heart beating wildly; calling out; rushing about; adrenalized, even as we try and shout to her, not daring at this point to venture outside, to call her back in to the window shut confines.)
Tomorrow the sky will be washed clean. Blue as hell. Exonerated. The days after a typhoon in Japan are some of the most beautiful weather you could possibly experience. It’s almost like being reborn. Everything sullen, moulding, has been torn away and eliminated; even tonight I could smell a harbinger of this in the air as the vegetation on the mountainside prepared itself in readiness for the ‘purification’. There were already twigs and grass on the ground lining the usually neat and well kempt roads; by tomorrow morning there will be branches, leaves in droves and all manner of messy, natural detritus; but it will feel post-deluvial; glad, dry; sun-kissed. I only wonder now whether I will get any sleep.