It feels almost trite to write about the rainy season in Japan. What could I say that 1000 other people haven’t said before me? Yet, it’s a whole freaking season so not to be ignored either. And friends in Kyoto tell me it has arrived.
Here’s what I can say. It isn’t the same every year. My first full year in Japan I got dire warnings about this season–that it would rain every single day, kabi would grow on my toothbrush, my shoes would never ever dry–and on and on and on. So, I had these expectations–and then… nothing. That is to say, my first few years in Japan the tsuyu were atypical and not bad at all. It took a few years for me to have the experience of a honkakuteki tsuyu. And then it really was rain every blasted day.
Mold did not grow on my toothbrush. But my kutsu were consistently damp no matter what. The biggest issues I had were sentaku and buses. I had no dryer and there was no way to hang laundry out to dry when the rain never stopped. You’d hang it inside, but even inside was damp and it could take days to dry.
The buses were torture for me because back then not all of them had air conditioning. And absolutely no nihonjin would open a window if even there was a remote possibility of a raindrop coming through the mado. It was like a steam bath and I couldn’t understand how people wearing suits weren’t sweating up a storm. Most of them looked serene.
I know what my homestay father would have said. He would have blustered out one of his “wareware nihonjin wa” statements where he’d explain the national character of the entire Japanese population. He’d often tell me what the otenki would be like for a given day and say smugly that only the Japanese could understand Japanese weather. (Personally, I thought it was more like he could understand the weather forecast and I could not.)
So, after experiencing a few of the more typical rainy seasons, I too began to steel myself for a month of rain. These days people have dryers or laundromats for their clothes, but I bet shoes still stay damp. I think that I do not miss tsuyu at all.
- kabi – かび mold. You really do need to watch out for this during the rainy season. There used to be stories about how young mothers would find mold growing on their babies’ backs. I had trouble believing that ever really happened….
- tsuyu – 梅雨 rainy season. The characters literally say “plum rain.” It sounds so poetic, doesn’t it. Ha!
- honkakuteki – 本格的 genuine, the real thing
- kutsu – 靴 shoes
- sentaku – 洗濯 laundry
- nihonjin – 日本人 Japanese person or people
- mado – 窓 window
- “wareware nihonjin wa” – 我々日本人は “We Japanese.” It’s a pompous or slightly academic way to start a sentence when you are going to describe some national trait of the Japanese people.
- otenki – お天気 the weather