A Japanese Word for June: Tsuyu

Posted by on June 6, 2016 – Japanese Study
Tsuyu

Do you believe an umbrella will just do the trick when the rain starts falling? Well, keep that thought in mind, experience the Japanese rainy season, 梅雨つゆ , and get back to us!

Tsuyu

The Japanese rainy season starts in late spring and ends in early summer – roughly the beginning of June until mid-July in most part of Japan. The earliest starts in Okinawa, where rain pours around May. For several weeks, everyone living in Japan will be miserable, waiting for better days. Or escaping to Hokkaido, one region that is lucky enough not to experience 5 or 6 weeks of constant humidity.

Written with the kanji うめ and あめ, respectively plum and rain, the word 梅雨つゆ literally means the “plum rain” as this season coincides with the plum ripening period, giving us the delicious pickled plum (梅干うめぼし) and the plum wine (梅酒うめしゅ).

With the perspective of 梅雨つゆ , shops and convenience store will sell umbrellas (かさ), plastic coats, plastic trousers along with towels for the unfortunate victims of a sudden rain or a broken umbrella. If you are going out, you should be prepared with extra socks as  the Japanese will tell you: it is nearly impossible not to end up one day walking in soaked clothes and shoes.

Although called “rainy”, it does not necessarily rain every day during 梅雨つゆ. The weather is very unstable and the high level of humidity in the air prevent clothes from drying properly, causing mold and rotten food more easily. At home, be sure to store several pairs of shoe as drying a wet pair for the next day may be quite difficult. When your shoes are soaked, you say that they are びしょびしょ.

Despite the discomfort, the rainy season is very important for the flora and fauna of Japan and Japanese people do not complain – much, about it. They know those few weeks are worth enduring as rain is crucial for the rice farmers. They will also indulge in their favorite activity – flower viewing, as the Tsuyu’s radiant symbol is the beautiful Ajisai (紫陽花あじさい).

Tsuyu-紫陽花

Rain also means snails and frogs. The Tsuyu symbolic creatures are without a doubt the カタツムリ, whose name in Japanese originally means “the insect wearing an umbrella” and the カエル.

This season is also symbolized by the traditional handmade dolls called てるてる坊主ぼうず: the shine shine monk. Made in white clothes or paper, these dolls are said to keep the rain away if hanged by the window.

tsuyu - bouzu

Soon, the 梅雨つゆ will start in Tokyo. So be sure to always have an umbrella on you and brace yourself for mosquitoes!