It is now June 24, and Japan is in the midst of “tsuyu,” (the rainy season) which comes every year from early June to mid-July. Being from Seattle, a city famous for its rain, I figured I should be able to handle this no problem. It turns out that rain here and rain is Seattle are a little bit different, and I have problems.
Problem #1: The Laundry Problem
We do not have a dryer at my house in Tokyo, and I therefore have no choice but to hang-dry my clothes after washing them. This is generally not a problem, and I actually have kind of grown to like the way they smell afterwards. Unfortunately, the rainy season has really thrown a wrench into my laundry-hanging plans. Even though there is a covered area outside my house, the air is so wet right now that my clothes could never dry there. I have been advised to hang-dry my clothing indoors in these situations but I am struggling to find a good way to do that in my room. As my amount of dirty clothes continues to increase, so too does my motivation to solve this problem, but thus far it’s been pretty frustrating and I just try not to think about it.
Problem #2: The Heat/Humidity Problem
Speaking of wet air, as I write this blog it is 22°c (72°f) with 90% humidity in Tokyo. In other words, the weather is hot, rainy, and above all muggy. Although it rains frequently in my hometown, we generally experience neither heat nor mugginess. Phoenix, Arizona, where I go to school, is famous for its hot sun but is also a very dry place. Thus, as I am not used to Japan’s climate at all, I arrive to class every day wet from my walk through the rain yet sweating at the same time due to the combination of heat and humidity. While I am able to turn on the fans in my bedroom to keep the air comfortable, my warm classrooms have provided me no respite in the recent weeks and I hear it only gets worse from here.
Problem #3: The Umbrella Problem
It’s not like umbrellas are a foreign concept in Seattle, but I never owned one, and neither did many of my friends. Weirdly, the concept of this umbrella-free life shocks many Japanese people I talk to. Umbrella logic in Japan is simple: always carry an umbrella when there is a chance of rain (except for sun umbrellas carried by women, but we won’t discuss that now). During my daily commute, the already-crowded streets of Tokyo have become even harder to navigate as large chunks of sidewalk are being taken up by the wide berths required by umbrella-carrying pedestrians (read: all pedestrians). It is not uncommon to see two people tangle umbrellas as they pass each other, or even worse, for a pedestrian without an umbrella to be clipped by a reckless umbrella carrier (carrying your own provides you with a measure of protection against direct contact).
In a word, Japanese umbrella culture is advanced. Plastic umbrella-bags are provided at the grocery store to keep customers from dripping water on the floor. Weird pieces of furniture that look like folded up tables sit outside the doors of buildings at my University so people can brush the excess water from their umbrellas onto them. And, of course, this being Japan, umbrellas can be found in a variety of stylish and “kawaii” (cute) shapes and sizes.
The real problem here could just be my continued rebellion against Japan’s umbrella culture. I can’t really even explain my reasoning as to why, but I have yet to buy an umbrella despite the fact that I walk long distances in the rain every day. Maybe it’s because I never had one in Seattle. Maybe I just would prefer to be wet than to carry an umbrella in my hand all the time. Or perhaps it is just that as I am confronted with Japanese people who cannot believe that I would go outside without an umbrella, I feel I must prove them wrong. As people continue to unnecessarily worry about me, I am starting to consider just conforming and buying one.
Problem #4: International Dorm Umbrella Thieves
Although this no longer concerns me since I moved out of my college dorm, a friend of mine who still lives there was complaining to me today about how her umbrella was taken out of the umbrella rack in the dorm’s entry hall. The practice of “borrowing” umbrellas belonging to others from the front hallway of the dorm was all-too-common while I lived there, and wise residents were sure to bring their own umbrellas back to their rooms. Interestingly, there seems to be a sort of accepted etiquette among my former dormitory’s umbrella thieves. Clear umbrellas like those found at convenience stores are fair game to be taken, but colorful umbrellas are somehow still safe. Perhaps there is honor among these thieves…
But enough small talk about the weather! Go read more important internet stuff!