In just a matter of hours, towns were swept away. Now residents in western Japan are contemplating how to rebuild their lives.
After a life dedicated to teaching, 75-year-old Koichi Kawata finally retired this year.
It was supposed to be his time to relax after decades in the classroom.
Now he's contemplating how he will rebuild his life after devastating floods destroyed his home in the town of Mabi.
"I've never seen a scene like this. I'm shocked," he said.
"It's as if heaven and hell have been overturned."
This has been Japan's worst flooding and landslide disaster in decades.
Police say 217 people have died in these floods — at least 60 of those came from Okayama prefecture.
Tens of thousands of homes across western Japan have been damaged and thousands remain homeless.
Out the front of what was Mr Kawata's home now lies a pile of books, broken furniture and white goods.
"I no longer have anything. I threw away everything I had — my school documents, books, everything," he said.
It's a familiar scene along almost every street in town.
In just a matter of hours, the community Mr Kawata called home was literally swept away.
His son's home next door was destroyed too.
"The house behind me was washed away and two more houses over there were washed away," he said.
"Three people were washed away and died."
Many people died in this area, including one of Mr Kawata's relatives.
Where homes once stood, now only sand remains.
Just around the corner, Soji Ono is trying to clean thick mud from what's left of the first floor of his home.
"[When I first arrived back] my mind went blank," he said.
"I started my own business here almost 50 years ago.
"The things I accumulated … became zero from just one rain and flood."
The scale of the destruction hits you when you visit the outskirts of the town.
That's where a giant pile of rubbish containing flooded, broken and destroyed items grows by the minute.
Truckload after truckload of what were once prized possessions are dumped before the workers go back to pick up another load.
By late afternoon, the pile reaches above two metres and stretches as far as the eye can see.
"We've been working since 6:30am and we've been here countless times [to dump]," one of the workers says.
"We only have a small truck so we've gone back and forth dozens of times."
Double disaster as factory explosion compounds devastation
For locals in the town of Shimobara, the flood wasn't the only disaster to hit the community.
Late at night as the floodwaters rose, a nearby aluminium factory exploded.
It sent boulders and a blast wave that shattered and damaged anything not already destroyed by the floodwaters.
"There was an explosion and we didn't know what happened in the beginning," 70-year-old Kazuma Kawata says.
"Somebody said it was an earthquake and another person said it was thunder."
Police have been trying to track down the owner of the factory.
Mr Kawata's house was damaged in the blast and the floods.
"When we came back to our houses, we were all in shock," he said.
"Without thinking, I suddenly started crying as I felt so sad. I lost strength in my knees and I couldn't help myself."
Despite living in an evacuation centre, Mr Kawata is back helping manage the town's emergency response.
"We've never experienced this before so it's hard," he said.
"But we can't be saying that, we just have to get on with it.
"We're working just thinking of that."
It's a clean-up that could take months, even years.ABC