National

Tourists visiting western Japan stranded amid flood warnings and canceled trains

by Eric Johnston

Staff Writer

Japan’s ancient capital braced itself for further rain Saturday night amid concerns about rising rivers, while canceled bullet trains due to severe rain and flooding in western Japan left tourists stranded and scrambling to find alternative routes.

Evacuation orders or advisories were issued for many towns and villages in other parts of Kyoto Prefecture due to fears of mudslides caused by the record-breaking rainfall.

In Kyoto’s Arashiyama district, the Togetsukyo bridge, a popular tourist site that crosses the Katsura River and offers great views of the surrounding mountains in the autumn and winter months, reopened at noon Saturday after having been closed due worries about floodwaters caused by torrential rains that pounded the area. As rickshaw drivers waited for customers, a few tourists stood either on the bridge or beside it, taking photos of the raging river.

Elsewhere in Kyoto, some residents reported Saturday evening that it was more or less business as usual.

“There have been frequent warnings, electronically, but no one has evacuated that I have seen,” said John Ashburne, a long-term British resident of Kyoto.

At Kyoto Station, as loudspeakers played traditional music to celebrate this month’s Gion Matsuri, one of the most famous traditional summer festivals of Kyoto, Japanese and foreign tourists who lined up Saturday morning and afternoon to buy bullet train tickets to Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture, Okayama and Hiroshima, or Hakata, in Fukuoka Prefecture, discovered they would have to find alternate routes.

No bullet trains were running west of Shin-Osaka Station, about 17 minutes away, and West Japan Railway Co. officials said they had no idea when they might start up again.

“I guess it’s either spend another night in Kyoto or find another way to get to Himeji,” said Chris McKever, an American who had arrived in Kyoto from Tokyo just the day before.

Private trains running from Kyoto to Nara and Osaka remained in operation.

Earlier Saturday, severe flood warnings and evacuation orders or advisories had been issued in other parts of the prefecture, including to towns and villages to the north of the city of Kyoto and along the Sea of Japan. Some localities had also issued evacuation advisories for elderly residents, some of whom might require special care.

The rain had people living in the city of Kyoto recalling previous periods of heavy rain and flooding — in 2004 and 2013 — that caused fatalities and damage, but they were hopeful the situation would not be repeated.

More rain, heavy at times, is forecast Sunday for most much of western Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu, with the skies starting to clear Monday. While a typhoon is currently forecast to pass through southern Okinawa Prefecture by Wednesday, it is not expected to hit Honshu.