Photo/IllutrationRescued residents are transported to safety on Oct. 13 in Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture. (Natsuki Kubokoya)

The Japanese word “kisho” refers to a person’s temperament or disposition. But in olden days, the word was written with kanji that stand for “weather” or “climate” when referring to someone with a quick temper.

For instance, educator Masanao Nakamura (1832-1891), who in 1871 published a Japanese translation of “Self-Help” by Samuel Smiles (1812-1904), used the kanji for “weather” in alluding to an old man whose temperament did not appear to deteriorate, even with his advancing age, according to “Kanji Zatsudan” (Idle talk on kanji) by Toshio Takashima.

Lately, I cannot help thinking that the skies over Japan are ruled by some ruthless, ill-tempered entity, not by any weather pattern.

The torrential rains of Typhoon No. 19 caused serious damage in the Tohoku, Kanto and Tokai regions, where rain is still falling intermittently on hard-hit areas.

I visited the town of Marumori, Miyagi Prefecture, last weekend and walked along the embankment of a tributary of the Abukumagawa river. The breached parts of the embankment looked like a giant had gouged out chunks with a shovel. The exposed mud was painful to look at. I pray the river won’t rise while the recovery continues.

At a sports ground in front of the town hall, irreparably damaged furniture and household goods were piled high. Most were essential items, such as refrigerators and heaters.

The catastrophic downpours that struck western Japan last year produced 2 million tons of flood-damaged trash, which will likely take two years to dispose of.

The waste from Typhoon No. 19 may be even greater.

A low-pressure system brought more rain to the Tohoku and Kanto regions on Oct. 22, causing additional rivers to flood and aggravating the situation where the ground was already soggy. I imagine some neighborhoods had to stop soliciting disaster-aid volunteers.

Nature is definitely being ruthless and obstructing recovery work that is backbreaking to begin with.

In a normal year, autumn foliage would soon be at its peak along the Abukumagawa river for visitors to enjoy from boats going downriver.

I sympathize with the locals whose hard work to recover normalcy and move forward is not yet over.

--The Asahi Shimbun, Oct. 23

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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.