What is the luckiest you’ve ever been while travelling? I’ll start.
I narrowly missed two typhoons, and dodged an earthquake.
Let me explain:
The year was 2018, and the destination Japan. My brother and I had booked a 2-week long trip which would take us through such cities as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Hiroshima in what would be our first time to Asia. In the weeks leading up to our departure, my Mom began to worry about our safety, as mothers do. In preparation for sending us off on our first international adventure without her, she began watching as much documentaries and travel videos on Japan as possible. The only problem? Those videos generally showcased many of the abundant natural disasters the country is known for.
Tsunamis, earthquakes, typhoons, volcanoes; if there was even the slightest chance of it happening, my Mom made sure we knew about it. I would like to say that her worrying was all for nothing, but in the end it turned out that dealing with these things almost became a reality.
The week before our departure, Japan was hit by Typhoon Jebi, in what would end up being the costliest Typhoon in Japan’s history in terms of insured losses, and the strongest to make landfall since 1993.
We were extremely lucky that our trip hadn’t started yet. We had picked completely arbitrary dates and it just so happened that we lucked our way into missing a Typhoon. Obviously, this near miss didn’t do any good in reducing my Mom’s anxiety, but that’s not where our dumb luck ends.
We spent 5 days in Tokyo, and much of it was centred around avoiding the residual rain from the Typhoon. During our stay, we gained the habit of coming back to our hotel room around dinner time to feast on FamilyMart fried chicken and watch the Japanese Grand Sumo tournament on TV, which was taking place just across the river from our hotel. In-between matches, there would be the occasional news update, which would often inform us of an earthquake that had happened somewhere else in the country. My brother and I joked that we would be lucky to get out of Japan without experiencing one, not actually thinking we would. As it turned out, we cut it pretty close.
On the sixth day of our trip, we took the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) to Kyoto. After arriving, we found the nearest convenience store, stocked up on food, and settled into our new hotel room to watch the night’s sumo matches. It wasn’t long into the broadcast before the television cameras started to violently jolt, and the commentator announced that an earthquake was underway in Tokyo. At the time, it was pretty shocking for us. We were in Tokyo just a few hours prior, and had narrowly missed being in an earthquake. Even though there was no danger, we decided it was best not to tell Mom until after we got home.
Looking back at it now, it wouldn’t have been that big of a deal if we had been in Tokyo anyways. By Japanese standards, this quake was a mere inconvenience and I can’t find a single mention of it anywhere online today, evidence of its insignificance. If I remember correctly, at the time the quake was measured to be somewhere around the magnitude 3.0 – 4.5 range on the Richter scale.
Again, not that impressive in hindsight, but you have to understand that growing up in Southern Ontario, Canada, earthquakes were almost never heard of. I can only remember experiencing one in my life, about 10 years back, and it was so weak that nobody realized that it had happened until we heard about it on the 6 o’clock news later that night. So to have missed an earthquake by a few hours, was a big deal at the time. Looking back at it now, I kind of wish we had been in Tokyo to experience it. Just enough to get a little taste without tempting fate too much.
After dodging the earthquake, the rest of the trip went by relatively smooth.
We managed to visit Mt. Fuji 5th Station as part of a day tour, (and the volcano didn’t erupt, so that’s good) and eventually made our way to Hiroshima before returning back to Tokyo to catch a flight home. It was during our return to Tokyo that we saw on the news that yet another Typhoon was headed towards Japan. Less than a week after arriving back in Canada, Typhoon Trami hit Japan, and although most of the damage was centred around the island of Okinawa, the storm caused hundreds of train, plane and other public infrastructure delays and cancellations across the country. Not really something you want to deal with on a 2-week holiday.
So, what’s the luckiest you’ve ever been while travelling? I think narrowly missing two typhoons, and dodging an earthquake is definitely top of the list for me. (Although travelling to Thailand in February of 2020 and somehow not getting COVID-19 is up there too)
If our itinerary had been just a few days shifted on either end of the trip, or had we spent a couple of more hours in Tokyo, my time in Japan could have been a much different experience, and one for the worst. I’m definitely glad everything worked out though, because Japan has become one of my favourite countries to travel to.
Even with all those pesky natural disasters.
What’s your luckiest travel story? Let me know in the comments below!
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