Hot, sticky weather turning to cold, wet weather in the blink of an eye? Rain falling from otherwise sunny skies? Umbrellas for sale at every convenience store and news stand? Must be rainy season!
Rain, rain, go away...
What's Rainy Season?
Tsuyu, or rainy season, generally lasts from June 8 to July 20 here on the Kanto plain. The temperature swings from the low teens to the high twenties overnight and every thunderstorm is followed by a miniature heat wave. Degree by degree, it gets hotter, wetter, and stickier, before finally ending in the unbearable heat and humidity of full summer.
Keeping oneself and one’s clothes free of sweat, rain drops, and rain splatter can be easier said than done. Luckily, we’ve got some advice for you to weather the season in style. Read on for our nine tips on staying dry during the hottest, wettest, part of the year.
On the Go:
You’ll notice that our tips in this section are more geared towards keeping clean and cool than dealing with rain. That’s because, in our experience, rain is easy to deal with - just go inside - but the lasting effects of heat, humidity, and sudden changes in temperature can be much trickier.
Carry a towel. Cute animal shape optional.
(Photo by user Littleinfo on Wikimedia.)
1. Carry a towel.
You may have noticed that the teachers and students at your schools have suddenly taken to carry small towels with them at all times. Go down to your local convenience store or 100 yen shop and grab a couple for yourself. We recommend carrying at least two with you during rainy season and the subsequent summer months. Use one for wiping away sweat and the other for cooling off (by soaking it in cold water and laying it across the back of your neck.) And you’ll want to make sure you’ve got enough to keep you supplied while your first set is in the wash.
2. Invest in a folding fan.
Folding fans have long been a symbol of Japan and for good reason. They’re compact, lightweight, and, most importantly, effective. Although there is nothing wrong with a pretty fan, we recommend substance over style in this case. You’ll want one that is a bit heavier but that will stand up to being pulled out of your bag a dozen times a day as you need to cool off in the office, in the classroom, or while walking from one to the other.
Our preferred umbrella.
3. Get an umbrella.
Umbrellas are everywhere in Japan. And so cheap! Until it starts raining. Then convenience stores sell out of stock within minutes. Department stores suddenly raise their prices. And any unattended umbrella will “disappear.” So, be prepared. Spend a little bit more money to find an umbrella that fits your frame - many Westerners find Japanese umbrellas to be too small to fully cover them and thus end up with one dry shoulder and one wet shoulder - and then label it with your name in Japanese. And don’t forget to take it with you!
4. Carry extra socks.
For a number of reasons, some streets in Japan do not have adequate drainage for sudden downpours. As a result, walking to work can lead to uncomfortably wet socks and shoes rather quickly. As you will probably have clean, dry shoes waiting to be worn inside your school, you’ll want to have clean, dry socks to go with them. We recommend throwing an extra set into your day bag so that you’ll be ready to face the day comfortably dry.
Remember to drink lots of water. Lots.
(Photo by Barbara Piuma on Wikimedia.)
5. Drink lots of water.
It’s easier than you would think to become dehydrated during the rainy season. The constant changes in the ambient temperature plus high humidity lulls people into drinking less water or tea than they normally would. Carry a thermos with water and take advantage of your schools’ tea services to make sure you’re drinking enough. At the same time, keep an eye on how much coffee and alcohol you drink as they can contribute to dehydration.
6. Stock up on wet wipes.
It’s easy to get up a better sweat than you wanted during rainy season, so it might be a good idea to keep a packet of wet wipes in your day bag, both to keep cool and to avoid becoming too fragrant during the course of the day. There are several good brands available with an assortment of cooling, moisturizing, and deodorizing varieties to choose from.
Again, rain is rarely the problem. But the amount of standing water left by sudden downpours makes for fertile mosquito breeding grounds and the constant humidity makes the mold run wild.
We love these little piggy mosquito coil holders. Seriously, they're amazing.
(Photo by Flickr user Typexnick.)
7. Invest in mosquito netting or mosquito coils.
Your local hardware store will have entire displays dedicated to all the latest and greatest ways to prevent Japan’s swarms of mosquitos from feasting on your blood. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice in choosing or setting up mosquito netting or coils. Both options are cheap, effective, and quite helpful in getting a good night’s sleep.
8. Cool your home with cool pads and fans.
While you’re at the hardware store, look into buying cool pads. These gel filled mats are designed to go under your futon while you sleep. Electric fans are likewise worth their cost as they can help keep your air-conditioning bill low. For extra effectiveness, fill a plastic bottle with water, freeze it, and then position it so that the fan blows across it.
9. Watch out for mold.
Mold is to rainy season as Santa is to Christmas: you don’t get one without the other. While the mold in Japan is generally mild, if it gets dense enough it can cause respiratory problems, allergies, and rashes. A little bit of water and bleach will take care of most varieties. The key point is to scrub it away the second you see any. Keep some rubber dishwashing gloves on hand and you’ll be all set.
Tsuyu means "plum rain" because the plum blossoms bloom during this time of the year.
There you have it, 9 tips for surviving Japan's rainy season! Do you have any tips you'd like to share? Let us know in the comments. Good luck!
*Umbrellas and bicycles are about the only two things you will ever have to worry about having stolen in Japan. You can lose your wallet and have it returned with all your cash and credit cards undisturbed, but leave your umbrella alone for even a second on a crowded train and you’ll never see it again.