Photo/IllutrationA screen shot from "Arakawa hanran" documentary depicting Tokyo Metro's submerged Ginza Station (Provided by Arakawa-karyu River Office, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism and Japan Broadcasting Corp.)

Author Aya Koda (1904-1990), who grew up in Tokyo's Mukojima district, was familiar with the nearby Sumida river. As a child, she played "flood," a make-believe game in which she would mimic the sounds of driving rain and wind, walk around with the hem of her kimono tucked up, and pretend she was serving food to flood survivors.

Her parents would scold her whenever they caught her playing this game, telling her she was "inviting bad luck."

But severe flooding was not rare back then. Koda recalled in her essay that some neighbors prepared for the annual typhoon season by keeping planks and logs handy, so they could make rafts for emergency evacuation.

Flood management has improved considerably since Koda's childhood.

But nothing has changed the fact that this low-lying area is still susceptible to flooding.

On Aug. 22, Tokyo's five wards in the immediate vicinity of the Sumida river and Arakawa river released flood damage estimates in the event of a mega-typhoon of an unprecedented scale, noting that 2.5 million residents would have to be evacuated.

With the flood waters projected to rise up to 10 meters and not abate for as long as a fortnight in some districts, even the outcome of the latest floods in western Japan pales by comparison.

The ward authorities advise residents to flee on foot or by train to neighboring Saitama and Chiba prefectures when an evacuation order is issued. But, they say, it is up to the evacuees to choose and reach their destinations.

The authorities are effectively throwing up their hands, but perhaps this is the tough reality.

Still fresh in my memory from the flooding in Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, is how a lone rescue boat operator picked up survivors, one by one. But such an effort would probably not work in heavily populated central Tokyo.

Even if one were to stay put in a high-rise building, what to do after power and running water have been cut off? This is a scary thought.

Recent extreme weather episodes defy accurate predictions of what to expect.

Right now, powerful Typhoon No. 20 is traveling north through western Japan, bringing torrential rains.

I am nervously tracking it as I write this column. I can only pray there will be no damage.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Aug. 24

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.al