For those who do not have a rainy season in their home country, hearing of a rainy season might sound a bit depressing and something you would rather prefer to skip, if possible. After all, rain usually means having to stay at home, because going out becomes a hassle. Or maybe you would think it’s just a bit of normal rain? But tsuyu is more than rain, that’s why it’s called ‘a season’ – a lot is different. And it’s not all bad or inconvenient, the rainy season in Japan has it’s positive sides to look forward to.
What does TSUYU mean?
First of all, let us take a look at the meaning of the word ‘tsuyu’ which is how Japanese call their rainy season in summer. The Japanese word “tsuyu” is written as 梅雨. The Chinese characters (kanji) mean “plum” and “rain” and there are various theories why this might be and how it came to stand for rainy season. One rather unlikely idea is that during the rainy season, sometimes big raindrops pour down, as big as “plums”. Another explanation, which makes more sense is that during the rainy season the plums ripen and are ready for harvesting (one of the earliest fruits that ripen) so hence “plum season”.
WHEN is the rainy season?
Rainy season in Japan usually starts in the beginning/middle of June and lasts for about six weeks in the Kanto area. Other parts of Japan have different schedules, sometimes a bit earlier sometimes a bit later than Kanto. Different years can have varying rainy season start times and lengths too.
What happens in the rainy season?
When it is raining a week straight and it is cloudy and grey outside, it can indeed be a bit gloomy. But do not worry, it is not raining cats and dogs the whole time. It is usually more frequent showers, rather than heavy downpours which are few and apart. Additionally, statistics show, that the rainy season in Japan has also a lot of sunny days, so basically it is not raining every single day.
Apart from the rain, the humidity is quite high, sometimes up to 100%! This can make the air stuffy and wet, which is probably the worst part of rainy season and the humid Japanese summer in general. This is why it’s best to ventilate your house, dry and dehumidify the air, protect your closets from mildew etc.
On the bright side, the rainy season keeps temperatures more bearable and the air fresher than what comes after it (the horrifying summer!). The rain is usually light and soft, unlike storms or typhoons that hit in August and September. That same abundant rain makes all plants and flowers greener and lusher, especially the hydrangea flowers that have become a symbol for tsuyu. The blue or pink pastel flowers bloom for the whole duration of the rainy season, brightening up gardens, temples, parks and even sidewalks and streets as they thrive anywhere!
So, grab your umbrella and take a walk, not in spite the rain but because of it!