Photo/IllutrationA wave crashes into a breakwater in Aki, Kochi Prefecture, at 10:40 a.m. on Sept. 4 as Typhoon No. 21 approaches the area. (Hideaki Kato)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

The strongest typhoon to hit Japan in 25 years made landfall in southern Tokushima Prefecture on Sept. 4, prompting evacuation warnings for hundreds of thousands of residents in the Kinki, Chugoku, Shikoku regions.

As Typhoon No. 21 approached, railway operators and airlines canceled operations and flights in central and western areas of the country, while the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) urged people in the storm’s path to remain vigilant against strong winds, high waves and torrential rain.

The system was above Anan city, Tokushima Prefecture, at noon on Sept. 4 and moving north-northeast at a speed of 55 kph.

It had a central atmospheric pressure of 950 hectopascals with a maximum wind speed of 162 kph and a maximum instantaneous wind velocity of 216 kph.

Ferocious winds are forecast for west and east Japan through Sept. 5, while the sea between Shikoku island and the Tokai region is expected to be extremely rough.

A drastic rise in the sea level and tides that may reach record heights could hit the coasts of Osaka Prefecture and southern Hyogo Prefecture on Sept. 4, the JMA said.

As the typhoon lashed Shikoku and the Kii Peninsula, evacuation warnings and advisories were issued in many areas.

According to an Asahi Shimbun survey, evacuation orders or warnings had been issued to 683,000 residents of 10 prefectures as of 11 a.m. on Sept. 4.

One of two runways at Kansai International Airport, which sits on a man-made island in Osaka Bay, was flooded in the afternoon, according to Kansai Airports, the airport operator.

The runway “is inundated with water dozens of centimeters deep, as far as I can see from the control tower,” said an air traffic control officer from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.

According to the regional headquarters of the Japan Coast Guard, a tanker smashed into an access bridge to the airport at 1:32 p.m. The bridge has a road on top and a railway underneath.

The tanker, named Houn Maru, is 89 meters long and weighs 2,591 tons. It had been anchored nearby, but strong wind caused it to drift. Its 11 crew members were unhurt.

The typhoon is expected to cross the main island of Honshu and reach the Sea of Japan by the night of Sept. 4. By the morning of Sept. 5, it will likely be downgraded to an extratropical storm over the northern part of the Sea of Japan, the JMA said.

The JMA forecasts maximum wind speeds of 162 kph for the Kinki region through Sept. 5, 126 kph for the Tokai region, 108 kph for the Chugoku, Hokuriku and Tohoku regions, and 72 kph and above for the Kyushu and Kanto regions.

Severe thunderstorms are also expected as the atmosphere will remain unstable over much of the country.

The Tokai region could be pounded by up to 500 millimeters of rain over the 24-hour period through 6 a.m. on Sept. 5, while expected maximum rainfall over the same period is 400 mm for the Kinki and Kanto-Koshin regions, 300 mm for the Shikoku region and 250 mm for the Hokuriku region, the JMA said.

Typhoon No. 21 is the first “very strong” typhoon to reach Japanese land since 1993, the JMA said. Typhoons in this category have maximum wind speeds of between 158.4 kph and 194.4 kph. The typhoon was downgraded to “strong” after it made landfall.

Railway services were canceled beforehand in the Kinki region, and many retail businesses announced that they would be closed on Sept. 4.

As planned, West Japan Railway Co. (JR West) halted operations on the Sanyo Shinkansen Line between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima stations on the morning of Sept. 4.

JR West also suspended runs on all local lines in the area around Kyoto, Kobe and Osaka before noon.

East Japan Railway Co. (JR East) decided on the morning of Sept. 4 to reduce Nozomi and Hikari bullet train services on the Tokaido Shinkansen Line to around two trains each per hour.

Japan Airlines Co., All Nippon Airways Co. and other airlines had canceled a total of 608 domestic and international flights on Sept. 4.