Right in between Japan’s multicolored spring and scorching hot summers is a period of about 40-50 days, when the otherwise pleasant summer months become unusually gloomy, wet, and humid.
This is tsuyu, Japan’s official monsoon season. (Also called plum rain due to the season starting when plum trees start blooming.) While it can vary on location, it beings in early June and lasts until mid July in most areas (except for in Okinawa, where it starts in early May and lasts till mid-June). Not only does it rain for several days in a row, but the temperatures remain well in their mid to high 20s throughout, leaving Tokyo and its surroundings in a continuous fog.
Not only is this unpleasant for obvious reasons, such as the need for multiple daily showers and constantly wet clothes, but there are also some more fundamental issues to deal with during this period.
For example, most Japanese will advise you to watch out for any food you have left out for too long. This is actually very good advice, since the extreme humidity in June and July causes food to become bad a lot faster than what you may be used to. Therefore, keeping food in an air-tight containers, wrapping it, or leaving it in the fridge when you aren’t using it is a good idea.
Another thing to watch out for are bad surprises from your closet. Leather shoes or jackets as well as silk items are extremely vulnerable to the humidity and if you don’t watch out, you may find your favorite boots covered in greenish stains before you know it. A good way to battle this problem comes in the form of chemical drying agents which you can buy at any drug store near you.
Tsuyu not only has negative effects on your belongings, but also on your mindset, with its length of damp and darkness. While some people simply choose to stay at home during this time, there are some other, more entertaining methods to deal with this gloomy season.
For those who want to be rid of the rain and have the free time, a trip up north to Hokkaido will be just what you have been looking for. No torrential downpours, reasonable spring temperatures, and beautiful natural scenery await you. A little closer to home, trips to the museum, the movies or the theater are all good choices as well. If you are longing for some more flower viewing following the end of cherry blossom season, beautiful and plentiful offering of hydrangeas reach their peak during the wet season, which will surely leave you satisfied.
Finally, Japan itself has in recent years become increasingly creative in thinking of ways to deal with the rain and gloom, which has resulted in a boom of audaciously colored rain boots and other similar fashion articles. While these may take some time of getting used to, you can be sure that they are most certainly going to be “only-in-Japan” items.
So while it may be one of the more unpleasant and gloomy seasons to experience, it does not mean that you have to stay inside and wait for the sun to return after a few weeks. With the right precautions, a good umbrella and some positive thinking, you can use this time as a fresh breather before the start of Japan’s hot and long summer.