Sometime soon, an epic meteorological battle will rage over the islands of Japan. Every year in early June, a cold air mass from Siberia and a warm air mass from Southeast Asia duke it out in the skies above us.
The two air masses push against each other for a month, sumo-style, resulting in about six weeks of early summer rain in Japan. When the warm air mass finally prevails, summer begins.
Tokyo’s rainy season runs, on average, from mid June to late July. Last year the rains began earlier than usual, lasting from May 27th to July 9th. It seems to be an earlier rainy season this year as well: rains started to fall eleven days earlier than average in Okinawa.
We can expect rainy season in Tokyo to start sometime around now!
When the cold and warm air masses begin their battle in the skies, we Tokyoites down below start our battle against the mould that seems to start growing everywhere.
If this is your first rainy season in Japan, be warned.
Don’t leave wet clothes in your washing machine: unless you want them to have a certain funky smell!
Air out your bedding as often as possible and, if you sleep on futons on tatami mats, put them away every morning.
Food poisoning also increases during rainy season, so make sure to refrigerate vegetables and other perishable foods, especially sashimi, and eat them as soon as possible.
Rainy season is not just mouldy laundry and rotting veggies. Although Tokyo’s human population might have mixed feelings about the June rains the city’s hydrangeas, which bloom in mid-June, give it two thumbs up.
The Imperial Palace East Gardens or Rikugien Gardens near Komagome Station are great places to go rainy-day hydrangea viewing. If you really want to get in on the hydrangea spirit, Bunkyo Ward’s Hakusan Shrine has a hydrangea festival from June 9th to 17th.
Japan’s moss gardens love rainy season too. The two most famous moss gardens in Japan, at Saihoji Temple and Sanzenin Temple in Kyoto (check out the picture on the left) are at their best in June. Moss gardens aside, Kyoto is a fantastic place to visit during rainy season. The cherry blossom crowds have left and the muggy summer has yet to set in, so the city is relatively peaceful.
If hydrangeas, moss gardens and off-season Kyoto aren’t enough to tempt you to put on your rubber boots and venture out during rainy season, why not just stay in and listen to the sound of the rain? If you have a digital recorder or iPhone, record the roaring rainfall and play it on loop the next time you have a crying baby or bout of insomnia to deal with. White noise, Tokyo-style, puts anyone to sleep.
It may have its muggy and mouldy downsides but Tokyo’s rainy season does have a certain charm. Weekender hopes this helps you make the most of the rainy days ahead – but don’t forget your umbrella!