A Japanese Word for June: 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 , and get back to us!
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 梅 and 雨, respectively plum and rain, the word 梅雨 literally means the “plum rain” as this season coincides with the plum ripening period, giving us the delicious pickled plum (梅干し) and the plum wine (梅酒).
With the perspective of 梅雨 , shops and convenience store will sell umbrellas (傘), 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. 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).
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: the shine shine monk. Made in white clothes or paper, these dolls are said to keep the rain away if hanged by the window.
Soon, the 梅雨 will start in Tokyo. So be sure to always have an umbrella on you and brace yourself for mosquitoes!