Photo:すしぱく on Pakutaso

Embracing Tsuyu – Why Rainy Season is an Ideal Time to Travel to Japan

Before moving to Japan, I almost always came on vacation starting in tsuyu/rainy season and for good reason: it's a cheaper, less busy and still beautiful time to check out Japan!

Cheap Flight Prices

The reason why I first arrived in Japan during rainy season and perhaps why I saw so many other tourists wandering the damp streets is that flight prices are much cheaper than any other time in the summer. When I visited Japan for the first time, as a university student, my longest vacation of the year was in summer. Flight prices in July and August, however, are always high. June, to my surprise, often would be $400 cheaper than just a month later. This extra cash to spend in country makes packing rain gear very worthwhile!

Quiet & Calm

The Golden Pavilion (Kinkakuji) in Kyoto.

Despite seeing other sightseers in the streets alongside me, compared to later July and especially August when Obon holidays roll around for everyone working in Japan, the tourist areas are far less busy during this time. Naturally, this is especially true if you are hoping to explore some of Japan’s rich outdoor heritage, such as shrines, temples, and gardens. If you are interested in documenting your trip in photographs, rainy season offers you the chance to get up close and personal with extremely popular sites, such as Kyoto’s Kinkakuji or Tokyo’s Sensoji. With less crowds and school trips than in the high summer season, you can enjoy these treasured spots without being ushered quickly along by the dense throng of people waiting behind you.

Rainy Day Beauty

Ajisai. A symbol of rainy season in Japan.

While here, I also suggest checking out a shrine or temple with ajisai (hydrangeas) in the rain for a truly magical seasonal experience. Ajisai, the unofficial flower of early summer and tsuyu, is at its most gorgeous at the exact time of the year that it is most likely to be pouring outside. Unlike the most common white variety in North America, Japan’s hydrangeas are a rainbow of pastel colors–pink, purple, blue–often grouped together for stunning effect. Similarly, I would stop off at any nearby green spaces awash in deep mossy colors from the humidity and rain. Although traditional gardens are always a go-to, why not explore a local Botanical Garden or even a larger neighborhood park?

Indoor Amusements

Photo by Daderot on Wikimedia Commons.

Of course, Japan is equipped with many places to beat the rain if you’re not in the mood to battle the fickle weather. While department stores, shopping arcades, game centers, and cafes abound, there are also many opportunities to learn about the country’s art and history while you are here.  Indeed, tsuyu gives you time to explore Japan’s many museums. The Tokyo National Museum, conveniently located in Ueno Park only a stone’s throw away from train and subway stops, is a collection of six separate buildings, each of which, focus on different types of art and history, such as the Toyokan for Asian art and artifacts. Rather than merely an afternoon, this museum can keep you fascinated for several days of downpours!

So, if you prepare yourself for the rain and dampness with umbrellas, rain boots, portable fans, and raincoats, you’ll find that tsuyu can be a great time to be a tourist!

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