September 25 2019
Tateyama – A Typhoon Followed By A Festival
Every year in mid-September on the southernmost tip of Chiba, Tateyama holds its Yawatan Festival.
For several weeks, we had been getting excited about plans for revisiting the town, to enjoy yatai stall refreshments while watching mikoshi (portable shrines) carried aloft to the traditional sounds of the locals’ drums, rhythmic yells and chants.
However, our plans were derailed somewhat on the night of September 10th by the powerful Typhoon Faxai, which inflicted extensive damage to much of the Boso Peninsula. TV reports showed cancelled trains, power cuts, damaged homes and typhoon debris all over Tateyama and much of the surrounding area.
For safety reasons, it was announced that the festival would be scaled back to just food stalls and games on the approach to the town’s striking Tsurugaya Hachimangu Shrine.
Having confirmed with our booked accommodation that their power was back up and running, we decided to persevere with our original plan, and to see for ourselves how the town had reacted to the impact of the typhoon.
When we arrived at the station, the bicycle rental staff (due to its vastness, Tateyama is best travelled around by electric bike) seemed surprised to see any tourists so soon after the typhoon, with some of the area still without power.
But with little ado, we took to our saddles and hit the coastal road southwest to Sunosaki Lighthouse.
The cycle ride allowed us to see close-up some of the havoc the typhoon had caused, with power lines down in places, uprooted trees and foliage strewn across roads and paths, and many houses with damaged roofs and fallen tiles.
We briefly made a stop to lend a hand moving some sandbags from a flat-bed van to a local’s house – sandbags being used as weights to hold down roof-protecting tarpaulin – before heading up to the lighthouse.
Even after such dramatic weather conditions, the views from the lighthouse, and all along the coast, were gorgeous. Visitors can see the jutting outcrops of the Chiba coastline, across to the Miura Peninsula and the Izu Peninsula further west, as well as Oshima Island to the south. Mount Fuji was even making an appearance beneath the boiling cloudline.
From Sunosaki we doubled back to see Tateyama Castle and the Akayama Underground Tunnels – each a showcase of different periods of Japanese history. On that day, the castle building itself was closed due to the typhoon, but the views from its perimeter rewarded the short climb.
After the castle, we headed back to the centre of Tateyama to see just how affected the festival was.
The lively hubbub, cheerful atmosphere and crowds of people showed that it takes more than a typhoon to crush the spirit of these hardy Chiba-folk.
With more heavy rain the following day, the trains were again suspended – showing how Japan’s rural areas are markedly more at the mercy of nature compared to the big cities, yet still manage with calmness and stoicism – and a bus ride was necessary to return us to the less affected train services in the north of Chiba.
We hope Tateyama and the rest of the affected areas in Chiba make a full, speedy recovery, and continue attracting tourists to the region’s rugged, striking coastline.