Monday, 12 August 2013

Obon adventures: a lucky trip up

We left Tokyo on Friday morning, not so early but early enough to miss Hiro's mother's call suggesting deferring travel by one day on account of extreme rain. When we stopped for lunch at Kunimi, in the north of Fukushima about 300km from Tokyo, the NHK national news was broadcasting footage of flooding in Odate and neighbouring Kazuno. Overflowing riverbanks, water in houses, landslides and flooding that had blocked roads including the expressway. Because it was national news they weren't broadcasting with locals in mind, and we weren't clear exactly where the flooding was. After a phone call to his mother, Hiro decided on a new route- rather than going up through Hachimantai or the Sanriku coast we opted to leave the expressway and go through the Japan Sea side.
While feeling a prophet complex could be verging on blasphemy, coming up I felt like Moses with an outstretched staff.... The expressway signs warned of heavy rain from Izumi. By the time we reached Izumi - without a drop- the warnings had shifted bop north to. And by rather time we reached ther the warnings were for Ichinoseki. We took the road up through Higashi Naruse - one of Japan's designated "beautiful villages". In central Akita we needed to make a decision - the mountain road ( which tends to have little traffic) or the expressway which can be slow as it is only one lane in quite a few places. Hiro looked at the clouds and looked at the map and tried unsuccessfully to see if his mother had news updates. We opted for the expressway; It was a good decision...the way we didn't go had landslides with fatalities, extreme flooding, and blocked roads. We had to make a roundabout detour coming into Odate as a local bridge had an electric pole positioned precariously in raging floodwaters.
We arrived, 13 hours after leaving without a spot of rain: a very lucky trip.
Photos are of the newspaper pictures of Odate &  surrounds  & roads in  Odate the following day.

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