COLUMN: Toyokoro copes with rainy season

Hokkaido is known for not having a rainy season, except for this year.

“Mizu”, Japanese for water. “Typhoon”, Japanese for typhoon.

Hokkaido is known for not having a rainy season, except for this year, and my little crush on the Tokachi River (mentioned in my first article) has turned out to be an attraction to bad boys.

The town of Toyokoro has been relatively fortunate so far, as the Tokachi expanded to two or three times its usual width and licked against the outermost dykes but refrained from flooding roads and buildings.

Other towns upriver saw washed out bridges and thigh deep water and are still coping with emergency conditions.

Despite having spent much of my life in a land of forest fires, I received my first evacuation order due to high water.

Flooding gives more warning, and thus more preparation time, than does fire. However, once the dykes are built and the sandbags are stacked, it is hard to be proactive.

On Aug. 31 we gathered in evacuation centres on the  higher ground on either side of the river, and hoped that the rain would stop in time.

For the town of Toyokoro, it did.

The local farmers are bearing the brunt of the damage, doing what they can to rescue potatoes and other crops from standing water.

The rest of us notice the soggy parklands and uprooted trees, but carry on as normal.

Ten days after the floodwaters peak, the community gathers again, this time for the Harvest Festival.

Nature cooperates with clear skies, a pleasant breeze, and neither puddles nor dust. From what I observe, the festival is mainly about food.

A central stage holds sporadic entertainment, and the crowd gathers in front, socializing over packed lunches and making regular forays to the encircling tents for grilled meats and seafood, donuts, and rice balls.

The requisite bouncy castle sees a steady business, but the greatest excitement is at the “fish pond.” A square, portable wading pool is the site for a fishing contest like none I have ever seen.

No rods, no reels, no nets. The horn sounds, the gloved contestants hop into the water, and the chase is on.

The prey are at least two feet long, quick and slippery, but most heats meet with some degree of success as smiling winners hold their catches aloft.

I decline the invitation to join the contest, and hunt down the less elusive deep fried chicken on a stick.

As the tents are efficiently packed away and the lot swept clean, the next focus for the Toyokoro town staff is the much anticipated arrival of the Summerland delegation. I am excitedly anticipating too.

Jaa mata.

Janet Jory is in Summerland’s sister city of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.