In Japan, rainy season is known as “tsuyu” 梅雨, which literally translates into “plum rain” because it coincides with the time when Japanese plums (ume) are ripening. It can also be written as “baiyu” 黴雨 or “mould rain”, referring to the mouldiness caused by the season’s humidity.
Lasting for about 6 weeks between early-June to mid-July, it is not really a popular season to visit Japan – who would want their holiday plan be ruined by dreary, rainy weather anyway? Even so, if you just happened to buy cheap flight tickets to Japan not realizing it is actually a rainy season, or it is the only time you get to enjoy your holiday, it does not mean your holiday is dampened for sure.
In this article, I will explain why travelling to Japan during the rainy season is not too bad a thing. On top of that, there will also be some suggestion to the places you can visit for this period of time.
Japan’s Rainy Season
Occurring in Japan as well as other parts of East Asian countries like Korea and China, the rainy season happens when the cold air mass from the North and the warm air mass from the South converge. It marks a gradual transition from spring to summer, with temperatures and humidity rising in the process. When the rainy season ends, what follows will be the sweltering midsummer weather that hits the country in the months of July and August.
Expect greater than normal rainfall in the rainy season. Although it does not rain every day (there are some sunny days too), it is mostly rainy and gloomy. The intensity of the rain can vary from day to day; sometimes it’s a persistent drizzle that goes intermittently for days, or it can get heavy and torrential on some days.
As the weather starts to get warm and unmistakably wet due to the rain, the temperature too changes throughout the day. It can be warm at times and chilly the other times, but June is still cooler and less humid compared to July and August.
Advantages of Travelling in Rainy Season
Although travelling in the rain does not fit with most people’s ideal travel experience, there is still bright side to this gloomy season. If it is the only time you have to take a trip to Japan, all you need is some creativity and optimism, change your mood and you might even find travelling in the rain enjoyable! Here are the reasons why you should not be upset about being in Japan during this time of the year.
1. No crowds, cheaper prices
The biggest advantage of travelling during tsuyu is that it is a low season. Unlike the summer high season in July and August when prices shoot up following the school break, you are likely to find cheaper hotels and flight tickets during the rainy season. Besides, as most people tend to stay at home than heading out in the rain, you would find many popular sightseeing spots pretty much crowd-free that you could have the places all to yourself!
2. Gorgeous scenery
The touch of rain brings vividness to the surroundings, adding atmosphere and making some beautiful places even more enchanting. This is especially true for temples and shrines, and also attractions surrounded by nature like Hakone, Mt. Koya, and Yakushima where the lush greenery can only be enhanced with mist and fog. Some said that Japanese gardens are best enjoyed on a rainy day as it highlights the sense of tranquility in Japanese culture, why not try and see it for yourself?
3. Flowers in the rain
One of the must-dos when visiting Japan during the rainy season is to check out the hydrangeas and irises. These flowers need an abundant of showers to bloom beautifully, meaning there is no better time to view them than in the wet season! You can see the blue flower clusters of ajisai (hydrangea) and the purple flowers of hana-shobu (iris) at many gardens across Japan dedicated to hydrangea or iris cultivation, parks, as well as the gardens of temples and shrines. These flowers look especially attractive when the petals are covered with raindrops.
4. Tsuyu-free regions
While many parts of the Honshu island are experiencing wet and dreary weather, it is great time to visit the northern and southern ends of Hokkaido and Okinawa. This comes as the rainy season is basically non-existent in Hokkaido and is already over in Okinawa (tsuyu happens one month earlier here).
Visiting these two popular holiday destinations during this period of time is also cheaper, less busy and less crowded, as they anticipate the summer school break to start following the end of rainy season (July 20). Whatever your pick is, you would not go wrong with the pristine beaches and unique culture in Okinawa, or the spectacular flower fields and natural wonders in Hokkaido.
5. Indoor attraction
Rainy season or not, an enjoyable vacation is not limited to outdoor sightseeing and should include a couple of indoor attractions too. In Japan, there is no lack of places where you can spend a rainy day comfortably. Besides a myriad of shops and shopping malls, places for cultural experiences are also plenty, from bookshops to record stores to theatres, not to mention a variety of museums where special exhibitions are held frequently.
For entertainment, there are game arcades, indoor theme parks, and variously themed cafes, just to name a few. Try to visit one of the traditional coffee shops called “kissaten” where you can enjoy the retro decor, hand-drip coffee and classic cafe favourites. Sit back and observe the scenery outside the windows – it is one of the most enjoyable things to do.
Ready, Steady and Go!
Don’t let the rain bring your mood down! For the locals, life goes on and the students still go to schools as usual. With some preparation, you too can enjoy your trip as usual despite the rain. Here are some tips for travelling in the rainy season:-
- Carry an umbrella wherever you go even if it does not look like it will rain. Rain-related items such as raincoats, rain boots, and bag-covers that hit the shelves around the time could be useful too.
- Short sleeves and shorts are probably fine for the season but dressing in layers would help you cope with the changing weather. Choose light, breathable clothes that dry easily, and bring a light jacket or cardigan as temperatures might drop in the morning or at night.
- Quick drying shoes, all-weather shoes, rubber flats (jelly flats), and even crocs are among the recommended shoes to wear for the season. Bring an extra pair of socks in case the ones you are wearing get wet.
Finally, many of the tips in this article are useful in rainy season too, be sure to check them out!