Track of Typhoon Tokage
beginning with the blue
An average of 2.6 typhoons have made landfall on the four major islands of Japan since records on typhoons have been kept starting in 1951. No typhoons made landfall in 1984, 1986, 2000 and 2008. A record 10 made landfall in 2004. These typhoons kill and injure people, close factories and cause the cancellation of trains and flights. Often times heavy rains cause more damage than strong winds. The dead usually drown in floods or die in landslides.

On average 10.3 typhoons a year approach within 300 kilometers of the coast of Japan. Years in which 12 or more strike this areas are known as years with many typhoons. Years with eight or less are known as having “few” typhoons. Most make land fall in Okinawa or south Kyushu, particularly Miyazaki and Kagoshima Prefectures.

Okinawa lies right in the heart of Typhoon Alley. It gets hit by an average of seven storms a year that have hurricane strength winds, sometimes up to 190 miles per hour. Finances for the families of Okinawan fishermen are often in the name of the wife in case the fisherman go out to sea and don’t return.

Flood prevention measures, improved planning and construction and storm and flood warning that began in earnest in the 1960s have dramatically reduced the number of people killed in typhoons. Even the most destructive storms today rarely kill more than a dozen people. By contrast, typhoons after World War II often took hundreds of lives.

Japan has special search and rescue units that have been trained to help during typhoons. They rescue people with helicopters, provide rafts for people trapped in flood waters and rig ropes to help people caught it raging rivers. The Japanese government has a system to estimate abnormally high tides during typhoons to help protect areas around coasts and ports.

When the center of the typhoon comes within 300 kilometers of Japan, the Meteorological Agency declares that a typhoon is approaching. An average of about 11 typhoons approach Japan every year. An average of three, excluding those that hit Okinawa and other islands, make landfall.

The most devastating typhoon since World War II was the Isewan Typhoon, which hit the Tokai region in September 1959. More than 5,000 people were killed or went missing. The most severe typhoon in recent years was Typhoon No. 23, which hit Japan in October 2004. It brought heavy rain to a wide area from Kyushu to central Japan, and flooded rivers in Hyogo Prefecture and northern Kyoto Prefecture. A total of 98 people were killed.

Websites and Resources

Links in this Website: LAND AND GEOGRAPHY OF JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; CLIMATE AND WEATHER IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; STORMS, FLOODS AND SNOW IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TYPHOONS Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; TYPHOONS IN JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan ; NATURAL RESOURCES AND JAPAN Factsanddetails.com/Japan

20111107-wiki C typhoon Pacific_typhoon_season_summary.png
tracks of Pacific typhoons in 2010

Good Websites and Sources on Climate and Weather: Good Photos of the Seasons at Japan-Photo Archive japan-photo.de ; Statistical Handbook of Japan Land and Weather Chapter stat.go.jp/english/data/handbook ; 2010 Edition stat.go.jp/english/data/nenkan ; News stat.go.jp Japan Meteorological Agency Japan Meteorological Agency ; Weather Underground wunderground.com/global/JP ; Weather Channel Weather Channel ;World Climate World Climate ; Accuweather Accuweather ; Climate Data climatetemp.info/japan ;Wikipedia article on Geography of Japan Wikipedia ;

Good Websites and Sources of Storms and Floods: Weather Warnings from Japan Meteorological Agency jma.go.jp/en/warn ; Marine Warnings from Japan Meteorological Agency jma.go.jp/en/seawarn ; Wikipedia article on Snow Country in Japan Wikipedia ; Landslide Distribution Map bosai.go.jp/en ; BBC Picture Gallery of Flood in Japan news.bbc.co.uk ; Academic Paper of Flood Maps in Japan internationalfloodnetwork.org ; Tornados in Japan Survey by the American Meteorological Society ams.allenpress.com ; BBC report on 2006 Tornado bbc.co.uk

Typhoons: Typhoon and Hurricane Basics aoml.noaa.gov ; Data and Images from Pacific Typhoons eorc.jaxa.jp/ADEOS Typhoon and Hurricane Satellite Images and Photos fotosearch.com ; Video from Nasty Typhoon in Taiwan YouTube ; Typhoon Video YouTube ; Central Pacific Hurricane Center at the National Weather Service prh.noaa.gov ; Wikipedia article on Tropical Cyclones Wikipedia ; National Hurricane Center at the National Weather Service nhc.noaa.gov ; Jet Propulsion Laboratory Images of Typhoons jpl.nasa.gov/images ;

Typhoons in Japan : Typhoon and Tropical Cyclone Information from the Japan Meteorological Agency Japan Meteorological Agency ; Video of Typhoon Surfing in Japan YouTube ; Brochure on Typhoons in Japan pdf file rms.com/Publications ; Good Japan Times article on Typhoons in Japan search.japantimes.co.jp ; Digital Typhoon Information from the and United States Navy agora.ex.nii.ac.jp/digital-typhoon ; Ise-Wan Typhoon Wikipedia article on the 1959 Ise-wan Typhoon (Typhoon Vera) wikipedia.org/wiki/Typhoon_Vera ; U.S. Navy Report on the 1959 Ise-wan Typhoon pdf file usno.navy.mil and usno.navy.mil ; Lessons from the Isewan Typhoon pdf file katrina.lsu.edu/downloads/Typhoon_Isewan

20111107-Wiki c Typhoon super 14W (Nabi)_2005-09-04-23-30.jpg
Nabi supertyphoon in September 2005

Typhoons Weather Patterns in Japan

In recent years, pressure trends---namely a high pressure in the Sea of Okhotsk off of eastern Russia and low pressure east of the Philippines---have drawn typhoons to Japan. Research has shown that years in which many typhoon strike Japan high pressure systems in the Pacific move east. An increase in the number of typhoons and a doubling in the occurrences of heavy rainfall have been blamed on global warming.

Typhoons that normally move westward south of Japan have been veering northward and spending about twice as much time in the Okinawa area. Between 1951 and 1998 typhoons spent an average of 74 hours around Okinawa Prefecture. Between 1999 and 2004, the spent 179 hours with a record of 276 hours in 2000. The changes is thought to be due to the northward shift of high pressure over the Pacific, which is also thought to be behind heavy rainfalls in the Kanto and Tohuku regions in recent years.

No typhoons made landfall in Japan in 2008 for the first time since 2002. This was attributed to “snaking westerlies”---winds that undulate north and south like a snake while moving towards the east---as opposed to the normal west-to-east westerly winds. The snaking pattern was caused by the movement of a large high pressure cell which usually sits over Japan in the summer to the Pacific off of Japan, causing typhoons to move towards the east south of Japan. Several typhoon just skirted the Japanese mainland, bringing some heavy rains to places.

Autumn typhoons in Japan are often severe. According to the Meteorological Agency, an average of 26 typhoons hit Japan annually. They come most frequently in August, but the majority of the damage occurs in September or later. During that time, autumn rain fronts often stay near Japan, and moist winds can blow from the eastern side of a typhoon toward the rain front to cause heavy rain.

Typhoon-Like Storms in Japan

typhoon damage
Japan can also gets typhoon-force wind with early winter storms caused by low pressure system in the Pacific Ocean. One such storm in December 2004 produced wind gusts up to 172 kilometers per hour, and caused ships to run aground and roofs to blow off buildings. Japan can also get typhoon-like downpours from summer rains, particularly from system that stall over mountainous areas.

A storm in February 2008 produce heavy snows and winds that created tsunami like waves on the Japan Sea in Toyama Prefecture and killed three people and flooded scores of homes. The dead included a fisherman whose boat was overturned and a man asphyxiated in a car covered with snow. In Toyama several people were injured after struck by cars and fishing boats pushed inland by the tsunami-like waves.

Destructive Typhoons in Japan

Typhoon Kathleen in September 1947 was the largest post-war typhoon. It struck the Kanto area caused the banks of the Tonegawa and Arakawa rivers to overspill their banks, flooding 380,000 houses. About 1,900 people were killed.

The Isewan Typhoon of 1959 was one of the most destructive ever. It left 5,098 people dead or missing. The Makurazaki Typhoon in 1945 left 3,756 dead. A typhoon in October 1979, killed 115 people. Several hundred people were killed by typhoons in 1983. A total of 117 of them were victims of heavy rain in the Sanin region.

Typhoon 11, which struck the Tokyo area in late August 2001, left 6 dead and 26 injured and forced Honda and Toyota to suspend car production. Typhoon Danes, which struck the Tokyo area in mid September the same year killed five and injured 21. More than 52,000 people were forced spend the night in trains and stations after the main Shinkansen line between Osaka, Nagoya and Tokyo was shut down.

A strong typhoon striking the Kanto area could flood 900,000 homes and affect 2.4 million people.

Isewan Typhoon

20111107-wiki C typhoon Kanogawa_Typhoon_1958_b.jpg
Kanogawa Typhoon in 1958
The Isewan (Ise Bay) Typhoon of 1950 caused the heaviest typhoon damage in Japan since the mid 1800s. More than 5,000 people died or went missing as sea water levels rose as much as five meters and surging tides smacked into low-lying area like a tsunami. Many of the dead lived in coast al areas swallowed up by tidal surges.

Experts have estimated that the death toll could have been as low 250 if thorough evacuation procedures had been enforced. Even back then weather observatories correctly predicted the typhoons strength and course and issued warnings seven hours before the typhoon made landfall. Nagoya suffered the worst damage. Local police there acted independently and only instructed people in some areas to evacuate and even then they did so when winds and rain were near their peaks. The former town of Kuso in Mie Prefecture, by contrast, issued an evacuation order, four hours before the storm hit and not a single life was lost even though the town was devastated.

Two years after the typhoon, new laws were passed that spelled out how municipal and village mayors were to issue evacuation orders and instructions. New sea walls and levees were built to protect people in vulnerable areas.

Typhoons in Japan in 2004

Japan was struck by record number of typhoons in 2004. Ten typhoon hit Japan, the highest number since the government began keep records of such storms. The previous postwar high number of typhoons was six. The storms killed more than 240 people, the most since 1983. The high number of typhoons was attributed to warm water off the Philippines and the location of high pressure zones which directed the typhoons towards Japan rather than China. In the late summer and earlier autumn they were striking at a rate of almost one a week. Much of the damage was caused by heavy rains not high winds. In some hard hit areas, volunteers from other places arrived and helped with clean up and repairs.

In June 2004, typhoon No. 6 killed four people and injured 40 in Shikoku and around Osaka. Among the dead were a man washed out to sea in Wakayama Prefecture, a man electrocuted while rigging an extension chord outside his house. Earlier in the month typhoon No. 4 hit Shikoku. It was the first time on record that two typhoons struck Japan in June. In July 2004, floods and landslides caused by torrential rains killed people in the Minamoto area of Kyushu and the Fukui area of western Japan.

In August 2004, typhoon No. 15 killed nine people in southern Japan and trapped 134 school children were trapped at a camp-cram-school. The dead were mostly elderly people either washed away in flood waters or buried in landslides. Several were found dead in irrigation canals. Typhoon No. 16, which hit the same month, drenched almost the entire Japanese archipelago and left 13 dead.

In September 2004, typhoon No. 17 killed seven people and struck all the major islands of Japan. Among the dead were two elderly farmers washed away by a swollen river and a women who was blown off a roof as she tried to fix it.

In September 2004, typhoon No. 18 killed 62 people and injured 900. The seventh typhoon of the season to strike Japan, it hit southern Honshu particularly hard, generating 130mph winds that ripped out trees in Hiroshima’s Peace Park, overturned freighters with produced gigantic waves. Fourteen foreign sailors died in accidents that included the overturning of a ship full of Russian logs and the sinking of a 6,315 ton freighter that was driven on to rocks. The 14th century Itsukushima Shrine, a UNESCO World Heritage Site near Hiroshima, was badly damaged.

Typhoon No. 21, which struck at tend end of September, killed 25 people. Shikoku and Mie Prefecture near Osaka and Nagoya were the hardest hit. A landside that buried much of a settlement along a river killed 10 people.

Typhoon No. 23 in Japan in 2004

Typhoon Tokage
In October 2004, Typhoon Tokage, struck Japan, killing 90 people, injuring more than 500, and causing around $10 billion in damage. More than 21,000 houses were flooded and 382 houses were destroyed or damaged. It was the worst typhoon in a quarter century and the 10th and final typhoon to strike the main islands of Japan.

Typhoon Tokage, also known as typhoon No. 23, struck Kochi prefecture particularly hard, with damage particularly heavy in areas where the typhoon collided with an autumnal rain front. About $5 billion of losses were attributed to damage to bridges, roads, and other infrastructure. The other $5 billion was mostly agricultural losses. Damage in agricultural areas caused sharp rises in the rice of vegetables. In some places heads of cabbage and lettuce were selling for than $15 each,

Most of the dead were killed in floods or landslides. More than two thirds of them were 60 or older. There were more than 700 landslides and mudslides. More than 600 people evacuate to their homes. Many were in areas were rivers burst through levees and flooded large areas.

Dramatic footage broadcast repeatedly on television showed a group of 37 mostly elderly people being plucked off a bus by helicopters. The bus had been swallowed up by flood waters. No one was hurt, but the people, including an 87-year-old man, spent nine hours on the roof of the bus in the rain before they were rescued. The survivors said they that around 2:00am the flood waters reached their waists as they stood on the bus. They sang songs such as Sukiyaki to stay warm and keep their spirits up

When Typhoon No. 23 hit, Japan was still picking up the pieces from Typhoon No. 22 (Typhoon Ma-on) which killed six people and struck Tokyo earlier in the month. Winds from No. 22 reached 243 kilometers per hour and rain feel at rate of 69 millimeters an hour. That storm stalled over Tokyo, paralyzing the city for one day.

Typhoons in Japan in 2005 and 2006

20111107-wiki c-Morakot_aug_9_2009.jpg
Morakot in August 2009
In August 2005, Typhoon 11 hit Honshu with gusts that reached 240kph. The storm passed almost directly over Tokyo, drenching the Kanto area with torrential rains that fell at a rate of almost a centimeter an hour. Houses were inundated with water; residents spent the night at shelters. One man died after he slipped and was swept away by fast moving water.

In September 2005, typhoon No. 13 struck Kyushu and Shikoku very hard, killing nine and injuring 330. Winds as high as 180kph were recorded. Three people were killed in Saga Prefecture when their vehicle was trapped by a landslide and they were buried by a second landslide.

In September 2005, typhoon No. 14 struck Kyushu particularly hard, leaving 27 dead. People were killed by landslides or swept away by flash floods. Record rain rainfall were recorded in 57 locations, including Saijo on Shikoku which received 75.7 centimeters. Massive mudslides occurred in Kagoshima and Miyazki Prefecture,

In September 2006, Typhoon 13 struck Kyushu with high winds and flooding, killing nine and injuring 328.

Typhoons in Japan in 2007 and 2008

20111107-wiki C Typhoon_Maemi_on_Sea_of_Japan_20030913.jpg
Typhoon in Maemi in the
Sea of Japan in September 2003
In July 2007, a supertyphoon---typhoon Man-Yi or typhoon No.4---struck Okinawa but damage was relatively light. Eight people were hurt and a couple dozen houses were flooded. One man was seriously hurt when he was blown off a roof while repairing a television antenna wire. Light trucks were overturned by the winds and pushed into other vehicles. More than 300 flights were cancelled and 99,400 households lost electricity. The storm produced seven meter waves and 252 kilometer per winds and caused a Chinese freighter to sink 600 kilometers northwest of Guam, killing 13 people.

After slowing down to a near typhoon, Typhoon No. 4 walloped southern Japan , killing three, injuring 790 and destroying dozens of homes. Heavy rains, strong winds and landslides and the threat of landslides forced thousands from their homes.

In August 2007, typhoon No. 5 made landfall near Hyogo, Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu. Fourteen people were injured, including a woman who broke here arm after being blown over by strong winds. Around 300 flights, affecting 40,000 people, were cancelled. Trains service was suspended. Blackouts affected around 9,000 households in Miyazaki and Kagoshima Prefectures. Winds of 126 kilometers per hour were recorded.

In September 2007, typhoon No. 9 struck the Kanto area around Tokyo, Hokkaido and Tohuku region of northern Japan, killing two people and injuring 70. On person was skilled by a falling tree and another was trapped by a landslide. It was the first typhoon to strike the Tokyo area in more than two years. More than 200 flights were cancelled. Shinkansen train service was suspended. The Tamagawa river in Tokyo, came near to flooding. More than 30 people mostly homeless people had ro be rescued. In Tokyo two cargos ships collided after dragging their anchors. In Gunma Prefecture, surging river caused the collapse of the only road of a town of 250. Winds of 126 kilometers per hour were recorded.

Winds of 216 kph were recorded In Okinawa during typhoon No 15 in October, 2007

No typhoons made landfall on the four major islands of Japan in 2008.

Typhoons in 2009

20111107-wiki C typhoon Typhoon_Sinlaku_06_sept_2002_0255.jpg
Typhoon Sinlaku in 2002
In August 2009, 13 people died and 15 were missing when Typhoon No. 9 struck central Japan, with the worst hit areas south of Osaka in Hyogo and Okayama Prefectures. Twelve of the dead and eight of the missing were caught up in floods in Hyogo Prefecture. Some of them were washed away by flooded rivers, caused by heavy rains that fell at rates exceeding 70 millimeters an hour, as they tried to make their way to evacuation centers. Six people from two families reported missing are believed to have been swept away by the swollen Sayogawa River.

In October 2009, typhoon No. 18 made landfall near Nagoya with heavy rains and 150 kph winds and tore through an area west and north of Tokyo, killing two people, injuring 49, flooding 440 buildings, forcing the evacuation of 4,200 people and causing major disruptions to the transportation network as trains in the Tokyo area suspended service during the morning rush hour as the typhoon raged through there.

Tornado-like swirls of wind caused major damage in two towns in Ibaraki Prefecture. The owner of sweets store in the town of Ryungasaki said, “Heard a roar shortly before 4 am and there was an impact that felt like a bomb. I found my shop, which is in front of my house, had been moved about 50 centimeters by the winds and its roof was blown off.”

In Aichi Prefecture the winds were strong enough on one bridge to blow over four- and 20-ton trucks. The driver of one truck told the Yomiuri Shimbun, “As the truck body leaned to one side in the gusting wind, I gripped the wheel tight, But the truck body flipped and was lifted by winds on both sides. After that, the truck rolled over.” Winds of 136 kph were recorded in the area.

Typhoons in Japan in 2010

20111107-wiki c Talim_2005.09.01 22.jpg
Typhoon Talim in September 2005
Only two typhoons made landfall in Japan in 2010: the season’s forth typhoon in August and the ninth in September. In 2010, only 14 tropical depressions developed into typhoons, the smallest figure since 1951 when comparable data was first made available. A Pacific high pressure system that brought record-breaking summer temperature also curbed cumulonimbus cloud activity that spawns typhoons in waters around the Philippines. The El Nino pattern also helped stop tropical depression from developing into typhoons.

The first typhoon of the 2010 season made landfall in mid August, roaring ashore in Akita Prefecture in northern Japan after following a track just offshore in the Japan Sea, bringing heavy rain to a large area of the country. Typhoon No. 9 struck central Japan in September with heavy rains that caused landslides which cut off roads in Kanagawa and Shizuoka Prefectures.

The Japanese government’s Central Disaster Management Council estimated that 7,600 people could die from tidal waves and 280 square kilometers could be swamped if a typhoon as strong as the 1934 Murato Typhoon strikes Tokyo. Most of the dead would likely be swept up away by rushing water or trapped on the low floors of buildings.

Typhoons in Japan in 2012

On the typhoon that struck Japan in mid September 2012, The Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Powerful Typhoon No. 16 passed the main Okinawa Island, bringing winds of over 200 kph and cutting power to about 80,000 households in Okinawa and Kagoshima prefectures. The island and the Amami region, including the Amami Islands in Kagoshima Prefecture, were enveloped by the storm zone, and part of southern Kyushu fell under the high wind zone, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. Rivers overflowed in several cities including Naha and Nago in Okinawa Prefecture in the morning as the typhoon's approach coincided with a high tide, inundating many houses. The extremely strong typhoon moved north without losing strength. [Source: September 17, 2012]

On the typhoon that struck Japan in early October September 2012, the Yomiuri Shimbun reported: “Typhoon No. 17 moved out into the Pacific Ocean from southeast Hokkaido via the Sanriku region early Monday after making its way across the country and causing at least 1 death and dozens of injuries. A 56-year-old man was found dead at a rice paddy in Suzuka, Mie Prefecture. The man was believed to have been swept away by a swollen river. [Source: Yomiuri Shimbun, October 2, 2012 ]

According to figures compiled by The Yomiuri Shimbun, 23 people in eastern Japan, including 12 in Kanagawa Prefecture, suffered minor or serious injuries due to the typhoon. Injuries, including falls caused by strong winds, were also reported in the Tokai and Kanto-Koshinetsu regions, where the typhoon hit. Airline disruptions occurred, affecting 8,000 passengers. Japan Airlines cancelled 54 flights, including those between Haneda and Chitose airports, while All Nippon Airways cancelled 16 flights, including those between Sendai and Itami airports. [Ibid]

Image Sources: 1) and 4 Typhoon News weblog and NASA 2) Ray Kinnane 3) Earthquake Image Archives M. Yoshimine, Tokyo Metropolitan University; Wiki Commons

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Daily Yomiuri, Times of London, Japan National Tourist Organization (JNTO), National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.

Page Top

© 2009 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated January 2013

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.