Photo:Fábio Petry on Flickr

Bad Weather, Good Times: Making the Most of a Rainy Day in Japan

As many of you will know, I am originally from Scotland. As such, I am no stranger to a spot of rain. Let’s face it, to many Scots, grumbling about the weather is a national pastime.

However, one plus point to my heritage is the pragmatic approach I bring to those days when the weather can dampen one’s spirit, as well as one’s feet!

Of course, while Scotland does undoubtedly see a lot more rain than Japan, it does not have an actual rainy season. In Japan, for most of June, and the first week or two of July, you probably won’t be needing that beach ball and shades. This is the time of the Japanese rainy season. But it seems that this year the rains have been surprisingly earlier. The whole of last week and much of this week including the weekends was like hide and seek between sunshine and rain.

During this time, the excessive rain as well as the often stifling heat and humidity can make for a pretty unpleasant time. Often at this time of year, it’s hard to tell whether you’ve been soaked in rainwater or your own sweat.

Photo: Shinichi Higashi on Flickr

So today, join me as we rundown the top 10 things to do in Japan when the weather is being uncooperative.

10) Visit the aquarium

Photo: Justin C. on Flickr

We all love a trip to the zoo on a sunny day, but of course the rain can very quickly curtail such plans. The beauty the aquarium though is that, for the most part, they are indoor. I’ve spent many a rainy afternoon enjoying the Osaka aquarium. Besides, there is something wonderfully ironic about escaping a rainy day by going to place where you are literally surrounded by water on all sides. One word of warning though, you can expect the aquarium to be very busy on rainy days, as it is often many people’s first “go to” place as a plan B to their original, sunny weather, plans.

9) Go to the Cinema

Photo: Dick Thomas Johnson on Flickr

Going to see a movie in Japan is definitely a unique experience all in itself. For those of us who have some kind of knowledge of the Japanese language it can be funny to see how some dialogue conveys a completely different meaning when translated into Japanese. You can also look forward to that awkward moment when you laugh at a joke in your native English, that none of the Japanese patrons find funny, as it didn’t translate. Conversely there will also be times when the Japanese in the audience will laugh hysterically and you’ll find yourself saying “I don’t get it.” Such things are all part of the experience. If you don’t speak Japanese at all then don’t worry. These days, most English language movies will have the option of either Japanese dub, or English language with Japanese subtitles. Get a friend to help you check the screening times.

8) Go to karaoke

Photo: tetsuo shimizu on Flickr

For many people, karaoke is often seen as something we do after a few beers too many, and as a means to close out a great night out with friends before making a mad dash for that last train home. However, many Japanese, especially the younger generation love going to karaoke in the daytime. With free soft drinks and greatly reduced room rates in the daytime, even if you’re not really into singing, karaoke can be a great place to while away a few hours on a rainy day.

7) Go to a Game Centre

Photo: Tini S. on Flickr

Video game arcades may have been in terminal decline since the mid-90s in the US and Europe, but they remain a strong draw to the Japanese. In Japan however, the exact make up of these “game centres” is a little different. Often situated close to, or sometimes integrated directly into local shopping malls, the centres provide a welcome tonic to the hustle and bustle of a typical weekend shopping trip. In addition to an assortment of arcade games and sideshow attractions, the game centre will in many cases also have pool tables, dart boards and sometimes even karaoke booths, all very reasonably priced.

6) Go to the Spa

Photo: Xuemin Guan on Flickr

Everyone knows how much I love onsen, the Japanese hot springs. However, when you live in a city like Osaka, such springs aren’t always within easy reach. To that end, a number of spas and bathhouses have sprung up in urban centres across Japan. For those in Osaka, I especially recommend Spa World, near Tennoji. Entry to these resorts is usually very cheap, only around 1000 yen and a variety of baths, saunas and other luxuries are on offer. A perfect remedy to the drizzly dank of the rainy season.

5) Indulge in a bit of Retail Therapy

Photo: David on Flickr

Bad weather can often make us feel in a bad mood too. For many, going out and spending some money on yourself is the best way to lighten the mood and cheer yourself up. Of course Japanese shopping malls and department stores, being completely under cover, provide an excellent shelter from the bad weather as well. Many malls also have restaurants, cinemas and host of other social amenities on site, so you can really make a day of it.

4) Go to a Museum or Art Gallery

Photo: Mariko Kato on Flickr

Much like I previously stated with aquariums, museums provide an excellent indoor experience for when the weather curtails your plans. Japan’s rich history and culture means that of course there is an abundance of museums, galleries and exhibitions all across the country, and most importantly, mostly indoor. It is important to remember though that, unlike some European countries, entry to museums in Japan is not free and a small fee usually in the range of 500-800 yen per person is levied on entry.

3) Visit your local community centre

Every district of every city in Japan has at least one community centre. Here you will find information on local initiatives like Japanese language classes, cultural activities and other local projects you can get involved in. Not only will this help you forget the bad weather, it’s also a great way to make new friends and expand your horizons.

2) Study Japanese!!

Photo: Xesc Arbona on Flickr

Ok, this isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of fun, but it is a very useful and worthwhile way to pass the time when the weather throws you a curveball. These days, phone apps, computer programs, audiobooks and interactive materials mean there has never been an easier time to teach yourself a new language.

1) Comfort Eating!

Photo: NickB_LA on Flickr

Bad weather can put us all in a bad mood. Thankfully, in Japan there is no shortage of good foods to cheer you up on such days. Head to your local izakaya (Japanese bar/restaurant) and prepare to enjoy the likes of okonomiyaki, yakitori, tempura, kara-age and whatever else boost your mood. It may be unhealthy, but sometimes you need to be good to yourself.

As you can see rainy days in Japan are not without their charm, provided you have a plan B. Next time the weather literally rains on your parade, don’t be put off. Enjoy yourself!

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