Posted in Japan News

Holding A Breath for 24 Hours

It started with just the news. Everyone at my school murmured on Wednesday how Typhoon Hagibis might still swirl away from us. Faxai didn’t hit Tokyo last time, and most teachers were hoping it would just go the hell away. I even said as much on Facebook that I was torn. On the one hand, I would’ve loved to have a day to sleep in, but on the other hand I needed to finish and print off my midterms.

By Thursday night, it was obvious from all the various weather radar sites that the Typhoon #19 was heading straight for us. Most of my Japanese co-workers and friends weren’t nervous, but also were a little nervous. It’s the kind of hesitant nervousness that comes with the years of experience in living through various typhoons. Nobody wanted to seem like they really cared, because who cared about typhoons really? Shrug, nervous laughter…check the radar at your desk when no one is looking.

However, the news proclaimed this typhoon would be unlike any other typhoon we’ve seen in the past decade. It wasn’t slowing down like most typhoons do, and it was going to cover most of the country with torrential rain and whipping winds. By noon on Friday, my school announced there couldn’t be any school on Saturday. JR East was already planning to shut down trains by 13:00!

It was kind of shocking. Up until this point, trains usually would shut down at 16:00/17:00. We all kind of expected the same time frame this go around, with most teachers expecting half a class day. Nope! We were told to not come to the school at all! Even full time and homeroom teachers were exempt.

A co-worker and I planned on a possible typhoon video game day. I would go over to hers, and we’d keep each other company through the storm.

“If the trains aren’t crazy,” she said.

“Yeah, we’ll have to see in the morning.” I shrugged and checked my phone as it buzzed again with another news pop up. “But it looks like the trains will be up and running? It should be fine.”

“Yeah, it should be.”

It’ll all be fine. Everything will work out. We’ll be OK. These storms never really hit Tokyo…

All these little reassurances we kept telling ourselves, because in actuality we weren’t entirely sure. It reminded me of Kentucky in the fall, with tornado season bringing hail, sleet, thunder, lightning, winds, and that blasted anticipation.

I hate the waiting of it, very similar to that sensation of when you’re just about to get on a roller coaster. You’re waiting in line, and waiting, and then you’re standing at the gates. Suddenly, you’re at the loading dock, and you’ve got to take that last step.

A big distinctive difference between the two is that I can choose not to get on a roller coaster, but I cannot choose when a typhoon is going to hit or how bad it will be when it does arrive. My anxiousness wasn’t at all helped by the charge in the air. If you’ve ever lived in a place that gets storms, then you know that charge. It’s that taste of rain on your tongue, the electric sizzle that’s just there, waiting to bust into action. As the barometer gets ever higher, that tenseness wraps around you and squeezes.

As I left for home on Friday night, I decided to stop by Don Quijote. I think everyone was feeling it. People were panicking, frantically calling their spouses and family over cell phones. The bread was gone. The milk was gone. The frozen foods were gone. Oddly enough, the canned food section still had a plethora of beans, tomato sauces, and etc. I shook my head and grabbed a bunch of canned chick peas, red kidney beans, mushrooms, and peas.

All the cup noodles were basically pillaged.
Even the onion bread was gone.
The meat, too.

Perishables would go bad very quickly in the event of an actual natural disaster. My mother taught me a long time ago that in a true survival situation, go for the cans. At home I already had emergency water and a first aid kit. I grabbed some batteries for flashlights (also in the emergency bag), and miraculously got a few bag of snacks for the maybe typhoon party.

I walked home quick. I knew I would need to cover my windows with cardboard. Even though my sliding windows were thick and made to withstand the full force of a typhoon, I knew my neighbors had a horrible habit of never taking their potted plants or laundry poles inside when a storm was set to hit us. Along my walk, I saw many people taping up their windows, pulling down shutters, or putting up actual wood planks like I’d seen in the news for hurricanes in Florida.

The whole neighborhood put down their shutters.
A nursery close to the station taped all their windows.

As soon as I got home, I grabbed the duct tape and cut up cardboard boxes to fit the huge Leopalace windows. I was a little too short to get all the way up to the tip top, but I figured it was a good enough job. The cardboard was just meant to keep the shattered glass from coming into the apartment, anyways, not be actual support.

I was sending out texts and messages as I worked. My friends were batting down the hatches all over the country. I let my family back home what my situation was and my plans. Thankfully, the work exhausted me enough that I could sleep.

In the morning, I was hit with a surprise. Even though JR East announced trains would be shut down by 13:00, apparently subways and other private train lines were already shutting down before then. My co-worker asked me not to try and get over to her place.

“I don’t want you to get stuck half way!” she told me over LINE.

To put things into perspective, last time a typhoon knocked out trains, JR East blundered the execution of their plans a little bit. The train company shut down trains at 17:00 on a Sunday, and promised that trains would resume at 8:00 the next Monday. It caused a lot of havoc, with people waiting in lines for hours to try and get to work or school. This time around, JR East and other companies weren’t taking any chances. They went with being overly prepared and simply shut it all down.

I checked both the train and bus schedules online. Sure enough, I realized that it wasn’t a guaranteed trip. I could very well end up stuck. I agreed with her and decided to just wait it out at my place. Left to my own devices, I decided to clean like a maniac.

The news of a tornado hitting Chiba was the first sign that Hagibis was definitely not going to be like any other typhoon. I noticed it hitting Japan’s Twitter News first. It was something to see, just this huge twister taking out buildings. The first confirmed death for Hagibis came from that tornado.

My phone buzzed and sent alarms at midday to inform me in Japanese on the Hagibis’ progress. Luckily, I can read Japanese kanji to a degree that I can glance at the emergency alerts to figure out where the alerts are supposed to cover and which ones I can ignore. I knew other people weren’t so well versed, so I stopped cleaning and went to work.

I sent out alerts to some Stonewall Japan pages so people could get information in English. I also sent out Tweets of English information. A lot of J-Vloggers and bloggers were doing the same, trying to get information out there so people wouldn’t be caught unaware about the situation.

NHK World was doing live coverage in English, which was a move I applauded. I appreciated that Japan Times and Japan Today kept regularly updating their information as well. I was glad to see that within our small foreigner community everyone was rallying to try and prevent another tragedy.

Then, the earthquake hit. At first, I just thought to myself, “Oh wow, the wind is really picking up!” When my picture frames began to bounce against the wall and my ceiling light swayed, I realized it wasn’t the wind. I ducked under my table just to be safe, because it felt like not a big deal…but I wan’t 100% sure because of the storm. It came and went, and I marked it as a 3 on the scale.

Sure enough, it was a 4 coming from Chiba and a 3 in my area. Called it! All the same, it didn’t help my already frayed state of mind. Three natural disaster-like events in one day, and all so close. I moved my emergency bag to sit right at the front door, and threw some clothes into my other backpack. Just to be super, duper safe.

In the early evening, the wind hit hard. I checked out my front door intermittently just to see what the wind and rain looked like outside. At one point, I opened my door and saw the sky was green. I promptly shut the door and said, “Not today, Satan.”

For those of you who don’t know, green skies mean bad thunderstorms and tornadoes are inbound, as in “you got minutes to find shelter, bruh.” I got lucky, though, no tornadoes for my area. The rain came of and on, off and on, either completely soaking the whole area or trailing off. I listened to it in between forcing myself to just relax and watch Netflix on my laptop.

I knew I couldn’t do anything, not yet anyway. My flood map showed a low chance of flooding. My alerts for evacuation were for the elderly, not for me, and not even for my specific area in Tokyo. I continued to retweet and put up messages I thought were useful, but otherwise I couldn’t do anything else. I texted my coworkers and checked in on a few friends, but it was just a waiting game.

Typhoon Higibis finally arrived at 21:00, and it hit hard. The rain suddenly dumped down, just swish, swish, swishing all over the place with the winds. My windows knocked a bit in their settings, but didn’t leak or break at all. I refreshed my flood maps and kept reading the evacuation alerts as they came. Honestly, I knew by that point it was useless to try to evacuate anywhere. If the river near my apartment overflowed, I wouldn’t be able to run out by this point. I had to just kind of hope I was making the right call to stay.

Regardless, I move my bags up into the loft area just in case a flood did decide to hit. All my electronics were charging up there anyway, so it just made sense. I stayed up in the loft, eating the snacks meant for a party, and watching the news. I heard about the community center that denied the homeless man shelter. It sickened me to think of someone getting turned away to sit on the street with just an umbrella and a “gambarre!”

And then an alert I never saw before popped up from Yahoo News. Puzzled, I searched for the kanji and my eyes went wide when I saw, “Volanic Eruption Warning,” come up. I thought, “Surely not Fuji?!” and nope, not Mt. Fuji. It was Sakurajima, all the way across the country. I was mad. I lived nowhere near there, why did my phone send me an alert for Kyushu?!

Around midnight, the winds decreased in velocity, although the rain stayed. My flood map and radar showed me that my area in particular was going to be spared from flood waters. To the west of me, dams were getting opened and the rivers overflowed to prevent dams breaking. To the east, a city not even that far away from me was being told to get to higher ground because the coastal lines were no longer safe. Somehow, I was sandwiched into a safe pocket that needed no evacuation or run away option.

I finally let out that metaphorical breath I’d been holding. The red parts of the radar shifted upwards to Saitama, and even though I was still in the yellow bits, I decided to call it a night. I sent my family messages that I survived and didn’t need to evacuate. If anything changed in the morning, I would call. I sent my last messages and so on, and finally went to sleep.

I got startled awake two or three times that night from my phone alarms. Once again, though, these alarms were meant for Sendai. Sendai is no where near me. I glanced at the kanji and rolled over. Just as it always tends happen, I fell into nightmares because my sleep got interrupted. I couldn’t remember them, just the general feeling that I was suffocating.

Finally, the next morning, I woke up to sunlight and the sound of children laughing. I checked my phone. All of my friends were safe. My coworkers were good. No need to worry. I let out a breath. I could breathe normally again.

I took down the cardboard. I put the grab bag back on the shelf. I made myself breakfast and a nice big pot of coffee. I knew I was supremely lucky.

As I scrolled through the news reports, I knew it could have been so much worse. My river was one of many on a system, placed about three or four dams away from the coast. Thank God for human ingenuity and for advanced weather warning technology, otherwise the death toll would’ve been catastrophic.

As it stands, about 70 people have lost their lives to the storm. Homes and damage to cities are being rebuilt and repaired, but there are bridges just gone. The tornado in Chiba plus the typhoon hit an already suffering part of Japan that was affected by the last big typhoon. Stories are coming in that reflect how Hagibis really was a horrible storm, but so many people were sparred because of the advanced warnings.

Now, some people are claiming the preparations were “too much” or an “overreaction,” but I disagree completely. It was easy to feel the might of that storm, and all it would’ve taken was one broken dam and a city would’ve been completely wiped off the map. Evacuations were necessary. Shutting downs trains was necessary. It was all absolutely necessary. The death toll isn’t this low because Hagibis was nothing; it is that low because there was a chance we could’ve lost everything.

Thankfully, I’m fine, but some people are not as lucky. Donations are being accepted for rebuilding efforts by the Japan NPO Center and Peace Winds. If you’re interested, the Japan Red Cross accepts monetary donations or they are always in need of blood donors. Please be careful and don’t give to any kickstarter or gofundme that claims to give funds to people in Japan! Kickstarter and Gofundme aren’t countries on the list that can start fundraising through those sites.

And if you’re worried about the next typhoon, check out this article to give you an idea about what to do.

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Posted in Japan News, YouTube Videos

Paternity Harassment Case in Japan Needs Your Help #patahara

If you live in Japan, then you’re no stranger to the endless working hours demanded by companies to their employees. The expectation of “work-life” balance is a pipe dream under most big companies, as they expect their employees to put everything aside for “company loyalty.” Parents in particular experience a specific form of harassment called “mata-hara” for women and “pata-hara” for men.

Respectively, “mata-hara” stands for “maternity harassment.” Women are often expected to give up their jobs after maternity leave, or are harassed for taking such leave in the first place. For men, “pata-hara” stands for “paternity harassment.” Men are often pressured not to take this leave at all. However, both maternity and paternity leave are protected under Japanese law.

Glen Wood is asking for help in his battle against the corporate giant Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities Co. (MUMSS). After his child was born pre-mature, he asked to take paternity leave in order to be with his baby, but his leave was rejected. Soon after, he said he experienced harassment from the company for taking leave. Mitsubishi UFJ has even tried to slander his name in order to win against him in court. See the video below for the full story:

To paraphrase the last of the video, Mr. Wood now needs help from the public. On July 5th, there will be a public hearing, and he will need as much support as the public can give him. Whether foreign or Japanese, if anyone has other stories of para-hara from this company, or harassment or abuses of power in general, your voices are needed at this hearing.

Mr. Wood had all his proposed testimonies against Mitsubishi UFJ rejected by the court judge. Without the voices from the public, he will be speaking alone.

If you wish to speak with him, you can find more information here: https://www.patahara.com/our-story.


More background information:

Posted in Japan News

UPDATED: French Exchange Student Missing in Japan, Last Seen in Tokyo, FOUND SAFE

This message comes from Linda Brulé, a relative of Margot Brulé. Here it is as originally posted in French, then translated into Japanese and English. 


Margot Brulé, 23 ans, a disparu.

Française, elle vivait à Kyoto depuis avril 2017 pour un stage universitaire.
Son tuteur de stage, Dr. Hiroaki Kitagishi à Doshisha University (Kyoto), l’a vue pour la dernière fois le 18 janvier et pensait qu’elle allait rentrer en France le lendemain. Il l’a notamment aidée à rendre sa carte de résidence le 18 janvier.
Elle nous a cependant envoyé des messages (via Facebook Messenger) disant qu’elle allait finalement visiter Tokyo avant de rentrer, qu’elle avait pris une chambre d’hôtel jusqu’au vendredi 26/01 et prendre son billet d’avion de retour le jour même.
Ce dernier message était donc le 23.
Depuis, plus aucun signal ni réponse, plus aucun contact. Ni à sa famille, ni à son tuteur.

Son téléphone n’est plus enregistré sur Whatsapp, plus de réponse, ni lecture sur messenger.

Sa dernière adresse à Kyoto est :
K’s common garden, chambre 421,kyotanabe shi miyamaki nogami 106.
Passeport expire le 13-11-2026.
Visa (S) working holiday numéro EA3218349 expire le 21 mars 2018.

Déjà contacté :
Ministère des affaires étrangères, cellule de crise à l’ambassade de France à Tokyo, des locaux.


Margot Bruléさん(マルゴ ブリュレ、23歳、フランス国籍)が行方不明です。

彼女は2017年より大学インターンシップ生として京都に滞在していました。
彼女のインターンシップのチューターであるキタギシ ヒロアキ博士(同志社大学、京都)が最後に彼女を見たのは1月18日です。キタギシさんはこの日、翌日帰国予定の彼女の在留カードの返還手続きを手伝ったとのことです。
しかし、彼女はFacebookメッセンジャーで家族に「やはり帰国前に東京に行くことにした」「東京で1月26日(金)までホテルを取った」「26日の飛行機を取って帰国する予定だ」などというメッセージを送っていました。
最後にメッセージがあったのは1月23日でした。
その後、現在に至るまで家族へもキタギシさんへも一切の連絡がありません。彼女の電話番号はWhatsappアプリ上で「登録なし」状態になり、返信もなく、メッセンジャーの既読表示もされなくなりました。

ブリュレさんの京都滞在時の住所:
京都府京田辺市京田辺市三山木野神106 K’s Common Garden同志社前 421号
パスポート有効期限: 2026年11月13日
ワーキング・ホリデー査証 (S) : 番号 EA3218349 有効期限2018年3月21日
既に連絡済みの機関:日本国外務省、在日本フランス大使館(東京)、地元の人々


Margot Brulé, 23, has disappeared.

French, she lived in Kyoto since April 2017 for a university internship.
Her tutor, Dr. Hiroaki Kitagishi at Doshisha University (Kyoto), saw her for the last time on January 18 and thought she would return to France the next day. In particular, he helped her return her residence card on 18 January.
However, she sent us messages (Facebook Messenger) saying that she would finally visit Tokyo before returning, that she had taken a hotel room until Friday 26/01 and will take her plane ticket back the same day.

This last message was therefore the 23rd.

Since, no more signal or answer, no more contact. Neither his family nor her tutor.
Her phone is no longer registered on Whatsapp, no answer, no reading on messenger.

Her latest address in Kyoto is:
K’s common garden, room 421, kyotanabe shi miyamaki nogami 106.

Passport expires 13-11-2026.
Visa (S) working holiday number EA3218349 expires on March 21, 2018.

Already contacted:
Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Crisis Staff at the French Embassy in Tokyo, locals.


Normally I don’t post missing people’s information without it being officially from authorities, but Linda Brulé reports on her Facebook that “the French Embassy in Tokyo has been contacted and the police as well.” If you know any information on her whereabouts, please contact local police or the Embassy of France.

Embassy of France in Tokyo Tel:
(03) 5798-6000
French Embassy Crisis Unit:
urgence.tokyo-amba@diplomatie.gouvernement.fr
or (07) 57612988 / (07) 57612165

Please share so she can go home safe and sound!


UPDATE: Margot Brulé has been found. Linda Brulé announced via Facebook that the family finally got in contact with her. All missing persons posts related to her are asked to be updated with this information and for the search to be called off. No details are being released on her disappearance. The family is happy she was found and ask for privacy at this time.

Posted in Japan News

Vote out the Scandal in the Scramble!

Democrats Abroad, Japan hosted the event “Vote Out the Scandal in the Scramble!” on November 5th, 2017. I was there to film and get some perspectives of the attendees, as well as show my own support against the Trump administration and all it’s been doing since he and the Republican party took over the White House.

As all of you know, I’m pro-LGBTQIA+, and someday I may want to marry a woman. As I’m Bi, there is a possibility that I’ll marry a man. Then again, I could marry a transgender person of some variety, or I could marry an intersex person, or- you get the idea. In the end, I want the freedom to marry a person that I love, and I want that freedom for all my friends and family.

The Transgender Ban, the anti-trans restroom bills, allowing religion as an excuse for discrimination against LGBT+ people (and by extension, other religions, blacks, etc.), all the social equality progress made under the Obama administration isn’t just being pushed back, it’s being outright attacked and destroyed. These fucking tweets that Trump puts out in support of all these vile acts, instigating more than a few of them, he is ruining lives and he doesn’t care.

If you’re looking for a blogger or vlogger who just puts out fun and happy daily distractions about day to day life in Japan, I can’t be that person. I expect more than a few people to get pissed about my opinion, and to summarily remove me from their following list. Regardless, I can’t stay silent, I’m not the kind of person who can just talk about the good things in life and ignore the obvious bad.

Still, opinions don’t change things, votes do. If you’re on my side (or even on the opposing side) and you want change, you need to vote. Go to VotefromAbroad.org and you can get registered to vote while living in Japan or another foreign country. It’s so important to make your voice heard and to be counted in this democracy, so please sign up to vote.

Posted in Japan News, LGBTQ in Japan

Rocky Horror Picture Show in Tokyo!

Hey you! Yeah, you, wanna see a show? A Rocky Horror Picture Show?!

Come on down to MK Studio in Shinjuku. The performance starts at 10:00 p.m., a great start to a Halloween weekend! Doors open at 9:00 p.m. with some games and festivities at 9:30. There will even be an open bar with horror themed drinks!

What is The Rocky Horror Picture Show?
A British cult classic musical of no morals and all persuasions that has taught people to throw toiletpaper at film screens, do the Time Warp, and give themselves over to Absolute Pleasure for over 40 years.

What is a Shadowcast?
A group of raucous nerds that will entertain you with their silly costumes, IM-peccable dance moves and pantomine of the movie scenes in front of the film.

Just as an aside, I’ll be performing as the infamous Eddie! So if you want to see me in drag, here’s your chance. I’ll be performing “Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul!” on stage and then be a corpse later on. It’s be fun times!

Tickets are 2,500 yen at the door, buuuut if you dress up in Rocky Horror wear (as in lots of sequins and corsets) then you’ll only pay 2,000 yen instead!

And here’s something nice, the profits will be going to a Solidarity with Egypt cause. If you haven’t see the #ColorsRNotShame stories, in Egypt a huge anti-LGBTQ+ oppressive crackdown is happening by the government. Profits from the shadowcast performance in Tokyo will go towards helping out those oppressed and fighting back against the system.

For more information, the event page on Facebook will be giving updates.

If you’re interested in other ways you can help with the #ColorsRNotShame cause, there will be an event in Shinjuku Ni-Chome before our show. Check out this event page for more information!

Posted in Japan News

All the Alarms and None of the Panic

I woke up at 1:00 a.m. to yet another alarm blaring throughout the city. It’s a normal part of living here, at least once a month either a phone alarm or city alarm going off to warn for either the typhoon smashing into Japan or an earthquake shaking things up. I groggily got up and listened.

For the first time ever, the alarm announcement was in Japanese and then in English. It took me a second to register, “There is a tornado warning in effect.”

Cue the Kentucky resident rolling out of bed, grabbing her purse, and settling into the bathroom for the next hour. The odds of a tornado touching down in the Tokyo and Kanagawa area is generally low, but Saitama and Ibaraki thought the same thing until they got hit with twisters.

I was just watching YouTube videos as the wind howls outside last night. I couldn’t do anything about the weather besides keeping an eye on the radar. I waited the hour as two different red splotches on the radar pass my area. During that hour, I tried to call and text friends to let them know about the warning. Only one person was awake, so, success I guess.

As I sat there waiting for the storm to pass, I supposed this would be the place I would go if I got a missile alarm. As I live farther down south, I have yet to receive one of the missile alarms, but with a navy base just a few miles away the odds of my area being a target wasn’t out of the question.

All of my Japanese friends and co-workers all respond the same way to how they’re dealing with the missiles: “Shouganai, yo.”

しょうがない is the idea that “it can’t be helped,” as in there is no use worrying over something because it’s out of your hands. It can be both a boon and a curse. In some situations, like earthquakes and tornadoes, shouganai makes sense. There is no use in panicking over nature, she’s going to do what she’s going to do, so just find a safe place and wait. Other times, it can be a great excuse for laziness, like say a co-worker can’t be bothered to speak English in class because he’s a twit, and when you tell him it’s a damn English class so SPEAK ENGLISH and his response is “shouganai-!!” That is just an excuse to not do something.

For me, I’ve adopted the shouganai attitude for the “missile crisis” (which is apparently what the Western media is calling it?). I can’t control what North Korea is doing, and I can’t exactly move and quit work over the possibility of danger and death. I could die from any number of things, like getting hit by a car on my tiny narrow street while walking home, so letting North Korea dictate how I live my life isn’t feasible.

When the missiles went over Hokkaido, my school and co-workers started talking about evacuation plans and possible bomb shelters. The truth is the best place would be somewhere underground, but what homes in Japan have basements? The answer is few to none. Ok, so what about subways? Great for inner city Tokyo, but all of the trains in our area are above ground.

My school eventually decided the best thing is the same as the earthquake drill: Get under a desk and wait. So basically, waiting to see if we die or not, which is morbid to say, but still true.

My co-workers and students keep focusing on other things. The Cultural Festival (bunkasai) is coming up and we’ve got to plan for it. We have a plan if the worst is to come, but until then there’s no point in driving ourselves crazy thinking about it. Japan and the Japanese people refuse to live their lives in fear, and I’m doing the same.

After the storm finally settled, my apartment was fine and I was just mildly annoyed at my interrupted sleep. I checked the Japan Meteorological site to make sure the warning was over before heading right back into bed. Whether it be storms or missiles, I’m not going to let fear control my life.