Right in between Japan’s multicolored spring and its scorching hot summers, there is a period of about 40-50 days, when the otherwise pleasant summer months become unusually gloomy, wet and humid. This is Japan’s official monsoon season, or as they call it here, tsuyu. The problem is that it not only rains for several days in a row, but that throughout this time the temperatures remain well in their mid to high 20s, leaving Tokyo and its surroundings in a continuous fog.
Not only is this unpleasant for the 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 outside of the fridge for too long. This is actually very good advice, since the extreme humidity in June and July causes food to become moldy a lot faster than you may be used to. Therefore, keeping food in an air-tight container or wrapping it, or even leaving it in the fridge altogether when you aren’t using it, is probably a good idea.
Another thing to watch out for is bad surprises coming from your closet. Leather shoes or jackets as well as silk items are extremely vulnerable to the surrounding 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.
But tsuyu not only has negative effects on your belongings, but can also cause a somewhat depressive mindset, with its ongoing 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 example, for those that want to get rid of the monsoon altogether, and of course have the free time to do so, a trip up north to Hokkaido will be just what you have been looking for. No torrential rain, and reasonable spring temperatures, on top of a beautiful natural scenery await you. A little closer to home, trips to the museum, the cinema or the theater are all good choices as well. If you are longing for some more flower viewing following the end of the cherry blossom season, Japan’s beautiful and plentiful offering of hydrangeas, which reach their peak during the wet season, 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 the monsoon season may be the most unpleasant and gloomy time to experience while residing in Japan, 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 these weeks as the last chance for a fresh breather before the start of Japan’s hot and long summer.