Sunday, June 20, 2021

Singing the Tsuyu Blues

 -- Susan, every other Sunday

Each year, in early summer, Tsuyu (梅雨), or rainy season, comes to Japan. 

Irises enjoying the rain in the Imperial Palace Garden

Tsuyu lasts about a month, and the starting and ending dates vary a bit from year to year--as well as region to region. It begins in mid- to late May in southern Kyushu, and reaches Tokyo around mid-June (give or take a week). 

Places that usually have lovely, mild weather

Lake Ashi, Hakone, in midsummer

See rain that ranges from mild drizzles to all-out thunderstorms. 

Lake Ashi, Hakone, during Tsuyu

It doesn't rain every day during rainy season, and generally doesn't rain all day on the days it rains. However, it's not unusual to have at least some rain on well more than half of the days during tsuyu--and on the days it doesn't rain, it's usually overcast.

That said, tsuyu rarely stops people from going about their business. 

Riding the Hakone Ropeway in rainy season

Umbrellas spring up everywhere--and umbrella racks appear outside everything from convenience stores to UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Todaiji, Nara, in Tsuyu (2018)

I even tried to climb a mountain (Mt. Ibuki, north of Kyoto) during tsuyu during my 100 Summits year. A day that will live in infamy (and public infamy, at that, because I talked about the experience in CLIMB)

Mt. Ibuki in the rain. I don't recommend it.

The rain swells rivers and the combination of heat, humidity, and precipitation also causes some seriously atmospheric fog in mountain areas.

The Tenkawa, in Nara Prefecture, the day after a major storm.

However, it can also flood the trails, so caution is the word of the day for tsuyu hikers.

Flooded trail alongside the Tenkawa, Nara Prefecture (2018)

Koyasan, in Wakayama Prefecture, gets lots of precipitation all year round - and while most tourists might not like to walk through cemeteries in the rain, I find Okunoin particularly peaceful in the rainy season.

Okunoin, Koyasan, Wakayama Prefecture (2019)

Flowers love the rainy season. Irises and ajisai (hydrangea) both bloom during tsuyu--the weather helps protect the delicate blossoms from the sun.

Irises at Meiji Shrine (2019)

Tokyo also has a number of festivals during the rainy season. Most of them didn't happen in 2020, and have been cancelled for 2021 as well, but we're all looking forward to their return in 2022. (The shots below are from the Bunkyo Ward Ajisai Festival, at Hakusan Shrine, in 2019.)

The old children's rhyme may ask the rain, rain to go away and come again some other day....but in Japan, even when it rains, most of us still like to go out and play.

So tell me; Rain: yea or nay? 

1 comment:

  1. I love the rain, and especially the flowers that follow. Here in NW NJ we seem to be experiencing a May-June Japan-style rainy season. It goes from sunny in the morning to thunderous deluges in the late afternoon...with snatches of rain in between. But, as I said, the vegetation just loves it.