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Japan braces for monster typhoon bearing down on Tokyo area

Japan braces for powerful typhoon

Tateyama, Japan — This city of 45,000 sits on the southern end of Chiba Prefecture, also known as the Boso Peninsula. Bordering Tokyo Bay to the east, it is usually known for surfing, sun and recreation. 

But driving south down the Tateyama Expressway, we start to see the first signs of distress left from the last typhoon, Faixi, which roared through only a month earlier. On either side of the highway, across otherwise placid countryside, is that familiar sign of damage in one of Asia's most typhoon-prone nations: buru-sheet — blue tarps shielding damaged roofs from the elements. 

Along the coast and even further inland, there are broken windows and scarred facades. Heavy pieces of decor at a theme park, Tokyo German Village, were overturned like Tinker Toys; the roof of one building was ripped off like cardboard. 

Now, the area is bracing for a new storm, expected to usher in roaring winds and as much as 30 inches of rain. It is forecast to hit Japan's east coast this weekend, including Tokyo.

When we stopped at a shore in Tateyama, a pair of employees from the local Aeon supermarket were busy at work, shoveling dirt into dozens of trash bags. They explained the makeshift sandbags would be stacked around the entrance, in hopes of preventing storm surge flooding from Saturday's super-typhoon, Hagibis. 

The store won't be open for business, of course. Across central and eastern Japan, home to tens of millions, life will screech to a halt. Nearly all subways and local trains will be shuttered, as will the famous bullet train on part of its most lucrative run, between Tokyo and Nagoya. Nearly all domestic flights have been canceled in and out of Tokyo's gateways, Haneda and Narita. 

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This photo shows blue sheets on damaged houses from the previous Typhoon Faxai in Tateyama, Chiba prefecture on October 11, 2019.  JIJI PRESS/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

Countless weddings, concerts and sporting events — including pro baseball series games and two matches of the World Rugby Cup — are also off. The Japan Meteorological Agency, which has issued stark warnings about the severity of the typhoon, told the nation that Hagibis will match the ferocity of the Kanogawa typhoon of 1958, when more than 1,200 lives were lost. 

The monster of a storm will unleash gusts of up to 157 mph (252 kph), and waves could reach as high as 43 feet (13 meters). The effects will not only be felt in Tateyama, but also across much of Japan's main island, Honshu. For residents, who have picked grocery and hardware store shelves clean as they stocked up, it will be a weekend to hunker down, and hope the electricity stays on.

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