How to Survive the Rainy Season in Japan
The rainy season (梅雨 - tsuyu) is going strong in Japan !
It has been an eventful month. What with being shaken by an earthquake on 25th May when almost everyone received Emergency Alerts as the epic centre was close by; a week later, Kumagaya’s June started promptly by raining on the first day and then keeping it up almost every day.
Just last week, storms that have raged on for ages and ages wrecked even more havoc in neighbouring Gunma Prefecture. Gunma made the news so many times that week. After that storm of wind, Gunma was hit by a lightning storm and damage reports regularly showed up on TV. A few days later, Kumagaya was next to experience the lightning storm that came down from Gunma. Lighting warnings, flood warnings, heavy rain warnings, fog warnings and wind warnings were the norm.
With weather like this, a rare sunny or overcast hour or day is thoroughly welcomed. Currently, the weather lets up a bit more than usual (1-2 days instead of a few hours). However, the rain will be back this weekend. Remember to bring some rain gear, a towel and extra clothes.
Half the time, I survived the rain by having extra clothes to change into or wearing pretty good waterproof gear (look for bousui - 防水). A waterproof jacket or ski wear really goes a long way (I borrowed both from nice friends). My friend’s waterproof jacket was bought from Uniqlo, but that’s on the steep end, around 5000 to 6000 yen. Uniqlo still sells some waterproof gear. The last time I checked, they had waterproof (and slightly insulated) pants for around 4000 yen. Ski wear is also really good because it’s waterproof and insulated—you can use it for both winter and rain. You can get some cheap for around 2000 yen a piece if you know where to go (I think there are some shops in the Tokyo area).
The rest of the time (I had to return the borrowed clothes), I survived by using cheap waterproof stuff. If you are on a tight budget like me, Workman and Daiso will be your saviours. Workman is a shop that sells a variety of stuff, geared more towards men who do manual labour. They do stock some things in ladies’ sizes but don’t expect a Uniqlo-kind of flattering style, cut or colour. Their stuff is affordable and sometimes shops will have sales. I bought my size 27.5 insulated boots (the red lining is the insulation) for around 1380 yen on sale. It goes slightly past mid-calves. The good thing about big boots is that you can wear many layers and still fit into it. The bad thing is that if you don’t have a large pair of waterproof pants to cover your boot with then some water might run down your leg and leak in. I’m obviously not a 27.5, so I bought some inner boot things (around 400 yen) to wear over my socks. I’m around a Ladies’ UK size 7 or 8, which is around a Japan size 25 or 25.5 for me.
From Daiso, I got a 108 yen (around $1) raincoat. While it’s flimsy, it’s functional and cheap. However, it is not very wide or long. If you need something to cover your bag, I will suggest getting the poncho. Or just get everything since it’s only $1 each. I tend to bring my plastic-bagged work clothes in my backpack and cycle in sports gear and rain wear. If you have a locker at your end destination, it’s always good to keep some spare clothes and shoes there. Getting Daiso’s rain pants (also 108 yen) might serve to increase the waterproofness of the raincoat or the lower-half of your body. The raincoat is good because its sleeves have an elastic band in them, so hopefully not much water will blow up your arm. Daiso also sells medium to large umbrellas starting from around 200 yen. I haven’t mustered the art of cycling with an umbrella yet, and I find that having a raincoat and umbrella while I walk around is a safer bet against puddles and wind-blown rain. However, do refrain from using an umbrella when the wind is strong—you’ll burn your money buying new umbrellas each time.
Hopefully the weather will get better next week as July hits. But just in case, here are some tips against lightning that you might want to take note of. I’m sorry for the lack of pictures of rain because I’m normally too drenched, too busy avoiding bouncing into puddles or too focussed on trying to see what’s in front of my bicycle to take pictures.
Don’t get sick and stay safe! (Vitamin C water is my medicine.)
I hope for good weather...