Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan while we were there for Rugby World Cup

This time last year Moree Champion's senior journalist Sophie Harris was caught up in a hurricane while in Savannah, Georgia. A year later - to the day - she was in Japan when one of the biggest typhoons to hit the country was set to make landfall. This is her experience, in her own words.

Calum Drysdale and Sophie Harris brave the wet weather on the deserted streets of Shizuoka on Saturday morning before Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan.

Calum Drysdale and Sophie Harris brave the wet weather on the deserted streets of Shizuoka on Saturday morning before Typhoon Hagibis hit Japan.

This time last year I was caught up in a hurricane while in Savannah, Georgia during a 28-day tour of the USA. One year later - to the day - I was in Japan when one of the biggest typhoons to hit the country was set to make landfall.

My partner Calum and I had been in Japan for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.

We had managed to secure tickets to all four of Australia's pool games. Our final game was set for Friday, October 11, in Shizuoka, about an hour south of Tokyo - right in the path of Typhoon Hagibis which was expected to make landfall the following day.

We'd heard the reports that a typhoon was coming, and in the days leading up to it we were frequently checking the updates as we feared we wouldn't be able to get to Tokyo to make our flight home on Sunday.

When we arrived in Shizuoka on Thursday, we booked seats on an early shinkansen (bullet train) to Tokyo, thinking if we left by 8am, we'd be in Tokyo before the worst of the typhoon and, hopefully, before the trains were suspended.

The following day, game day, we went straight to the train station to check that the trains were still running, only to see a big sign - all trains were suspended for Saturday.

We spent the next few hours wandering the streets of Shizuoka trying to decide what to do.

Our flight home from Tokyo was scheduled for 5pm Sunday. We basically had two options - catch the earliest train we could on Sunday, if the trains were back up and running by then, straight to the airport, or skip the Wallabies game that night and head to Tokyo while we still could.

In the end we thought, "bugger it", and decided to go to the game and risk the trains on Sunday, hoping we'd be able to leave by 1pm at the latest.

Sophie and Calum at the game.

Sophie and Calum at the game.

If we missed our flight, well, that's what travel insurance was for, right?

That decision turned out to be the best one. Not only did the Wallabies win against Georgia, putting them through to the finals, but our flight would later be cancelled anyway.

The rain had begun as we made our way to the stadium that night and we thanked our lucky stars for the $20 ponchos we bought at Disneyland Tokyo a few weeks beforehand. They certainly came in handy as the rain bucketed down during the kilometre-long walk from the station to the stadium. It was the heaviest rain we'd seen in a long time.

At the end of the night, before heading back to our hotel, we decided to go to the nearest 7-eleven and stock up on some essentials - Pringles, Kit-Kats, water and beer - to get us through the following day.

We were advised to stay indoors on Saturday, and ensure we had enough food and water and that our phones were charged.

The next morning we woke to news that a man had already been killed as a result of the typhoon, when the car he was driving flipped over in the wind. Thousands of residents in the Shizuoka prefecture, the prefecture we were in, had also been evacuated.

We were, however, safe where we were staying in Shizuoka city. The rain was still steady and we decided to brave it to see if the McDonald's a few blocks away was open, as we were craving a cheeseburger after a few too many drinks the night before.

What awaited us was a far cry from the bustling neighborhood we'd seen just the night before - the streets were all but deserted and everything was shut, including Maccas, as the rain and wind got heavier and stronger.

The only place open in the vicinity was an Indian restaurant, so we ate there, filling our bellies while we could, as we feared we may not be able to venture outside come dinner time, when the typhoon was expected to hit.

Back in the safety of our tiny hotel room, we spent the next few hours watching movies before joining a British trio for drinks in the hotel lobby. What better way to wait out a typhoon than with the nine per cent cans of vodka lemons that were readily available in convenience stores?

We enjoyed noodles in a cup for dinner that night, and when the rain ceased outside we figured we were in the eye of the storm.

During the break in rain we, along with our new British friends, decided to try our luck and see if there was a bar open showing the only Rugby World Cup game not cancelled that day, between Ireland and Samoa.

After spending what seemed like forever searching for a bar that was not only open but was also showing the game, we finally found one. By the time the game was over we went outside and the rain still hadn't returned. It seemed as if the storm had passed and it wasn't as bad as predicted. We'd survived the typhoon!

The next day saw blue skies and streets once again filled with people; there were even markets on. It was hard to imagine a typhoon had just come through. However, we were lucky. We were in a higher area that luckily escaped much of the damage and devastation that Typhoon Hagibis brought.

So far the death toll is 74 people, and counting, with more than a dozen still missing.

More than 5000 people are still in evacuation centres and more than 12,000 homes remain without power or running water.

Typhoon Hagibis also caused widespread disruptions to transportation, with a number of trains damaged by flooding.

Calum and I were two of those people affected by transport disruptions; the biggest impact to us was that our flight ended up being cancelled, which, in the scheme of things is pretty insignificant. In fact, that cancellation gave us an extra three days in Japan.

We're finally on our way home after a holiday we'll never forget. We just hope that this time next year, wherever we may be, we are not in the path of a typhoon, hurricane or cyclone.

  • The Moree Champion is part of the Australian Community Media network
This story Rugby fans gamble on World Cup weather - and win first appeared on Moree Champion.