Early summer is the time for rain in Japan. Tsuyu, or the rainy season, starts in early June and lasts until about mid-July every year in Japan. Much like how here on the East Coast, the months of April and early May are marked by consistent rain, cloudy skies and the occasional bright, sunny day, Tsuyu in Japan follows a similar pattern, albeit significantly wetter. Sudden, heavy bouts of rain are a fairly common occurrence during this time. The atmospheric humidity is also generally very high during the rainy season, though temperatures are usually cooler. Umbrellas are a must-have, but are fortunately available in pretty much any shop for as little as 100 yen. 100 yen stores (the equivalent of a dollar store here in America) carry all types of weather protection products and drying agents, including waterproof laptop bags, ponchos, hand towels and moisture absorbing pellets for drying out shoes.
The average Japanese home is equipped with several features to help out with the inconvenience of near-constant rain and humidity. While few Japanese homes have electric or gas clothing dryers, most bathrooms have an exhaust fan with a “drying” setting just for drying clothes. Air conditioning units are universally equipped with a dehumidifying feature, and home exhaust fans run pretty much constantly. Public places are universally outfitted with umbrella stands, umbrella dryers, and in some establishments, an automatic umbrella bagging machine to prevent dripping water from being dragged inside. While nearly two months of solid rain may seem harsh to foreigners, most Japanese consider the rainy season as only a mild inconvenience.
Tourist travel tends to be light during the rainy season, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t plenty of beautiful things to see in Japan during that time. Hydrangeas bloom to their fullest during this time of year and many areas known for their scenery, such as Kamakura, Nagano, or Wakayama are mind-blowingly beautiful from the misty air and water-lush greenery. The lessened tourist traffic means being able to visit shrines and temples without crowds, cheaper accommodations, and easier travel in general. Many temples and buildings are outfitted with rain chains, rather than pipe gutters, and many of them are decorative meaning that they show off their best view when it pours. A gentle rainfall is also a wonderful time to visit an outdoor onsen! The hot water, misty view, and gentle sound of rain make for a perfectly relaxing scene. The rainy season may sound dreary, but it is actually one of relaxation and beauty.