Is it safe to travel to Japan and are flights still running?

Typhoon Jebi has battered western Japan with 129mph winds

Cathy Adams
Wednesday 05 September 2018 21:14
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Typhoon Jebi - scenes of devastation in Japan

The strongest typhoon in 25 years to hit Japan has left more than a million homes without power and 10 people dead. More than 700 flights to and from Kansai International Airport have been cancelled.

Tropical storm Jebi pummelled the western coast of Japan, with destruction centring around the city of Osaka, with winds of up to 129mph on Tuesday.

Kansai International Airport, built on an artificial island in the Bay of Osaka, remains shut again today. High seas flooded one of its two runways, while strong winds sent a 2,500-tonne tanker slamming into the side of a bridge connecting the airport to the mainland. Around 5,000 passengers stranded at the airport are being transported back to the mainland on high-speed boats, according to the Japan Times.

Are flights running?

Kansai International Airport is a major international hub that serves the cities of Osaka and Kyoto.

All flights were cancelled on 4 September. According to the Foreign and Commonwealth (FCO) office, there are “no plans to resume service” today.

Terminal 1 is “heavily damaged”, according to Kansai International Airport’s website. Both runways will open on 6 September at the earliest. The airport operator added that there was no power in some parts of Terminal 1 as at 4 September.

Meanwhile, the Osaka Prefecture Government said that some train routes around the region would be affected.

Those travelling to Japan are advised to check with their airline before heading to the airport.

Is Osaka safe to visit?

Osaka is Japan’s second city, and a vibrant business hub. In 2017 it welcomed a record 11.1 million tourists annually, an 18 per cent jump from 2016.

The Universal Studios Japan theme park in Osaka is closed today, and plans to open again on 6 September.

“We know that there are many people planning to visit Osaka in the near future, just as there are many tourists already in Osaka who may now be unable to fully enjoy their time in our city. On behalf of Osaka and all of the Kansai area, we aim to provide everyone with a safe and relaxing visit,” says Hiroshi Mizohata, public foundation chairman of Osaka Tourism Bureau,.

The FCO updated its guidance for visiting Osaka following storm Jebi. “If you are planning to travel through the affected areas, or use the airport, you should follow the advice of local authorities, transportation services and check with your airlines. The Osaka Prefectural government is publishing up-to-date information and guidance on their website,” it said.

Jebi has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, and is now heading north of Japan.

Is it safe to visit Japan?

Japan is known for its extreme weather. In July, more than 200 were killed by a heatwave bringing temperatures of more than 40C and torrential rain.

“As Japan is in a major earthquake zone you should familiarise yourself with safety procedures in the event of an earthquake or tsunami, and take note of instructions in hotel rooms, at train stations and on your local prefectural website,” the FCO guidance states.

“Information on earthquakes and any impact on towns and cities in Japan, including tsunami warnings, are published by the Japan Meteorological Agency. There are many smartphone apps available with information on how to stay safe in a natural disaster in Japan.”

There are also several active volcanoes in Japan. In April, Mount Io on Kyushu Island exploded for the first time in 250 years.

Japan is also susceptible to tropical cyclones – or typhoons, which are categorised as having winds of more than 70mph. The typhoon season runs from June to December, with storms most common between July and September. The FCO adds that southern Japan is most at risk.

“Typhoons that hit Japan are often accompanied by damaging high tides. People living in coastal areas are particularly at risk. Landslides and flooding can occur anywhere. The dangers increase when an earthquake occurs shortly after a typhoon has saturated an area,” the FCO states.

Despite the risk of natural disaster, Japan is generally a safe country to visit. More than 300,000 Brits visited Japan in 2017, with most visits “trouble free”, according to the FCO.

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