Jun 11, 2019
Rainy season has once again arrived in Japan! Last Friday (7/6), the Japan Meteorological Agency declared that rainy season had started here in Kanto, with a bunch of wet, grey days and cool humid temperatures officially descending upon us.
Known as tsuyu in Japanese, rainy season can be more than a little hard to deal with. Here are ten pieces of advice that have helped me weather the deluge (I like puns) year after year and I hope they can help you survive and even enjoy it!
Find a reliable weather forecast
This sounds simple, but there is quite a lot of variability when it comes to rainy season in Japan and not all weather forecasts are created equal. This is especially the case when it comes to non-Japanese forecasts for Japan. You'll also want forecasts as specific to your local area as you can. I live in Chiba, for example, and while the forecast for Tokyo is usually reliable, there can end up being some important differences, particularly when it comes to rain. Find a good weather forecaster and keep updated. While it’s less than helpful for weekly forecasts, I find the Japan Meteorological Agency’s website good for detailled daily information.
Look out for rainy day deals
This means that shops and restaurants will try various techniques to try and lure in what customers they can and you can sometimes get a good deal. An example is my local St. Marc’s ChocoCro, who offer double points on my point card when I come in on rainy days. It’s a small thing, but it’s nice!
Hit up tourist locations
On especially rainy days, a lot of people - understandably - stay home. If you’re wanting to avoid the crowds, then get your rainy weather gear sorted and head on out! While traipsing about in a downpour might not appeal to you either (again, understandably), look out for the days when lighter rain is forecast. Often, these showers are intermittent and light enough to be tolerable.
Take a walk
Nobody likes staying in all the time so take the chance to head on out! Old Japanese buildings can be especially atmospheric under heavy grey skies, and all that rain does mean there’s a lot of greenery to be enjoyed, and hydrangeas in particular are a celebrated marker of the rainy season in Japan. Get your gear together, watch your step, and enjoy!
Keep an umbrella handy...
It sounds simple, right? If it's pouring, you're going to notice fairly quickly that you've forgotten your umbrella. It's the days where the weather is a bit trickier to decipher that are a problem, though. Even if it looks clear when you're heading out, consider carrying a fold-up umbrella in case of the weather suddenly changing. Also, know where to buy an umbrella if you do get caught without one. Convenience stores often have them, as do 100 yen shops and their three coin cousins. There is a pretty decent correlation between price and quality, but that 100 yen piece of clear plastic and feeble metal spokes will suffice when you're desperate!
... and take care of it!
Once you're out and about, there are all manner of ways to store your umbrella. There are umbrella stands outside stores and some places for public use (e.g. libraries, museums) have special umbrella "lockers", a stand of hooks with keys to hire for 100 yen and leave your umbrella in. A lot of places also have special plastic bags at the entrance with which to cover your umbrella (if the waste of plastic bothers you, you can find reusable ones at some discount shops).
Get your footwear sorted
The rain is bad news for your shoes, there's no way to soften it. In more bad news, it's not acceptable to wear flip-flops/things/beach sandals anywhere other than the beach or your home in Japan, though Crocs are oddly popular for casual public settings and young children can get away with more than adults can. Your approach to footwear is probably going to depend on how easily you can get your size here. Rainboots are readily available for women and sometimes men, though not in larger sizes and they can be quite uncomfortable on warmer rainy days. Otherwise, consider sandals, leather, less open shoes and/or something that dries fairly quickly. Beware the smell. Consider taking another pair to change into if shoes are required at your indoor destination, and take spare stockings or socks either way. You might even consider buying a pair of shoes purely for use during this season, a sacrifice to the rainy season powers that be!
Prepare for your commute
Unfortunately (or fortunately, maybe!), particularly heavy rain has a way of disrupting and/or delaying trains. If you can read Japanese, services such as the Yahoo transit information website will give detailed information about train issue, and even simply using Google Maps will let you know if there's a delay afoot.
Before you can catch a train, though, you have to get to the station and some planning ahead might come in handy here as well. Even if you’re accustomed to getting there on foot, an ongoing deluge might be off-putting enough to get you considering other options. Find out if there are any buses around that might be helpful. If you use them or if you’re going by car, remember to add extra time - once the weather gets bad, it seems like everybody is driving, and traffic slows accordingly.
Deal with your laundry
An extremely annoying aspect of rainy season is certainly the laundry. Assuming you are responsible for your own and/or other people’s, getting it dry can be painful. Keeping track of that weather forecast and choosing appropriate days to get your clothes outside is helpful, but when the rain goes on and on and on, alternatives might be necessary. Even if you don’t have a dryer at home, your housing might have drying facilities of some variety, whether that be a function in the bathroom for drying clothes or a setting on the air conditioner. Figure out how and where you’re going to hang up laundry indoors. I find that hanging a rack from the tiny ledge above the door on some of my doorways works just fine, but the ever-reliable Daiso and other discount stores have other ideas for you too. If all else fails, start looking out for coin laundries - type コインランドリー into your maps app (literally "coin laundry" but katakana-ized). There are more around than you might think - remember, rainy season isn’t the only time of year that Japan’s weather turns laundry-unfriendly - and they can be very helpful on wet days.
Finally, remember that rainy season doesn’t last forever! Even when it feels like the mist will never lift and the rain will never stop, it will. The full wrath of the Japanese summer is just around the corner and who knows, you might even look back on these wet days longingly once the humidity really kicks in! In the meantime, take care and stay dry!
I'm Australian and married to a Japanese (post)man. We live in Chiba with our two children, where I work as an English teacher. I try to post something here once a week, and I also have a personal blog over at http://lyssays.wordpress.com/