How to Be Prepared for Rain in Japan
One of the things I love about Japan is the incredible variety of Weather
In my Hawaiian home, we get some type of rain in the morning or evening, the wind gusts strong and a Typhoon comes by every once-in-a-while, but the temperature is pretty much paradise year-round. I was 12 before I realized how each and every day’s weather can be such an exciting experience!
My first hint into the wonder of weather was peering out on a frigid December evening from the milky Victorian glass in our Edinburgh home to experience love at first sight with the huge first-snow flakes meandering lazily all over the city. They seemed like so many sweet pieces of comforting cotton.
Now in Japan, I experience a twinge of expectation each morning when I take my first peek from the sliding glass windows next to my bed in Yokohama. I am never completely sure what I will find. The crows are usually cawing above and there might be a hint of wind rustling the Kaede maple tree growing against the house…but I really do never know. We experience both kind and dangerous weather. But Japan, excuse the pun, has mastered the art of Weathering the Weather.
First things first…look out your window and feel the moisture in the air and take a look at the clouds. If it is at all gray and if you feel the moist suppleness on your skin, it is most likely going to rain. Simply this will dissuade any conscientious laundry-lover to resist doing a load first thing and hanging clothes out to dry. Yes, most Japanese wash in cold water and don't use dryers. I used to scoff at that until I got used to sunshine smell on my clothes and now I only use my dryer in emergencies. As we would say in Japan…much more Eco!
Second, switch on the tube. With myriad photos, on-site reports, lots of big thermometers and cross-country predictions, every channel will be broadcasting some news for today’s weather and what to expect. Percentages on rain, whether you should take an umbrella, when you might be able to laundry, how your laundry will dry…its all there. Often, there might be some heavy rain or wind warnings so if something seems urgent on TV, make sure to inquire with your concierge/colleague or friend before you leave the hotel or home. For earthquakes, you will hear a bunch of phones going off with their urgent alarm mode app just before one hits. Don't worry though, everyone is in it together and everyone will help each other no matter what happens.
I remember all the morning surf-reports in Hawaii for all the wave-riders across the island and I cant help but think much of the weather frenzy here comes from Japan being an island nation with a huge fishing industry. Also, with all the faults we sit on top of, the position in the Pacific (Japan basically blocks greater Asia as wind and storms come off the ocean), being mountainous and having only 3 percent of the total land even developed (most of Japan is mountains..did you know that?), we are a hot-bed of exciting weather. Yay!
Have fun with the weather in Japan!
Just FYI, unpredictable and dynamic weather made Japan develop a countless amount of weather-related items. You might want to pick up some of these during your stay.
Here are my favorites:
Retractable Umbrella/Parasol: I actually use this in Hawaii to cut out UV rays and in Japan, they are so small and light you can keep one quietly hidden inside a bag of pretty much any size. I used to think Japanese people had a little umbrella surgically inserted into their arms because as soon as one drop fell, Tokyo became an immediate sea of umbrellas. Now I know the truth and now I keep my own secret umbrella stashed in my bag like everyone else.
Also, feel free to ask at the train station if a shower erupts and you don't have one. Umbrellas are the MOST popular “wasuremono” or forgotten item in Japan so almost every station will give you one for free if they have them in stock.
Rain boots: Never thought you could get so many styles, colors and swag in rain boots. Rain shoes/boots in Japan are so cool, you can use them right in the office and on customer visits with no problem at all. Definitely pick up a pair to show off to your muddy-shoed friends back home.
Tenugui Japanese towels: Keep a Tenugui Japanese towel in your bag and you can wipe off rain drops and snowflakes from your clothing and umbrella before you get on to the crowded buses and trains. There is an art to keeping clothes fresh and dry in rainy/snowy weather and you will see your Japanese friends being very careful about their waterlogged purse, umbrella, shoes, bag, etc.
Not cool to let your drip drops bother the floor or other passengers. Yes, each and every person follows extensive water etiquette and voila, Japan’s clean, efficient and smooth public transportation staying spic and span for all becomes possible!
As a side note, don't forget that usually punctual trains, buses, etc., can suffer delays due to heavy wind, rain, snow, etc. If you see clouds above or hear the wind buffeting, give yourself a bit more time to get around.
Former Deep Japan Writer