So I was in class the other day today and we were running through the usual questions I ask my students every day. When I asked, "What season is it now," I got the very specific response, "It's early summer." Early summer? Early summer!?!? That means ... the rainy season is coming!
Rain in Shibuya via Pixabay
The rainy season (aka tsuyu 梅雨) brings nearly a month of constant rain and humid weather. I don't know why, but it always seems to rain ONLY when I need to get somewhere. Like it will rain from six to nine AM, stop, and then start again at four PM right before I have to go home only to stop when I get there.
A lot of English teachers in Japan don't have a car which makes getting around town a little tough during this time. Deciding whether to face the storms to get groceries or just stay home and order pizza can be a real battle (did I mention that Domino's gives a discount on rainy days? You have to be registered tho!).
For a lot of us (especially Californians), getting around in inclement weather can be a real challenge. Lucky for you, I've got years of experience living in a constant state of semi-backpacking.
Follow this advice and you'll go from crying in the rain to singin' in the rain!
1. Get a nice umbrella
If you're going to be walking a lot or taking the train, a good umbrella is a must. Sure, you can pick up a cheap umbrella for a few hundred yen at Daiso or the convenience store, but you don't wanna see what the wind will do that sucker in a big storm!
Shell out some extra cash to get a decent umbrella. It doesn't have to be anything too fancy, but you want something better than the aforementioned cheap plastic ones.
When buying an umbrella, be sure to consider:
Strength (the ability to snap back in place if it's windy is a plus!)
Size (small for portability, big for more coverage)
Fashion (most come in black or dark blue)
That's one good umbrella! via Giphy
You can get a pretty good umbrella for less than ￥2000. Nitori is a good place to pick one up. Keep in mind that Japan is a very safe country. However, if someone does fall victim to a crime, it's more often than not GTU (grand theft umbrella).
2. Get some rain boots
Now that you've got your head covered, it's time to think about your feet. Nothing is worse than arriving at your place of work with soggy feet and then having to change into your inside shoes so you can get those soggy too!
Rain boots are essential for keeping your barking dogs happy. They're also great to have in an emergency (like a typhoon or flood).
There are a lot of different styles to consider. I personally have a pair of waterproof hiking boots from the States (expensive, but worth it!).
These are the boots I use via Amazon
You can also pick up a cheap pair of rubber boots from a local department store.
Another option is to head to the local labor supply store and buy some boots there. I like these stores since their prices are reasonable and their products can usually take a beating. My personal choice is Workman.
If you know your size, you can also get some rain boots online. I wear a size 12 in the states (30 in Japan) so I usually like to try on my shoes to make sure they fit.
3. Get a bike poncho
via Amazon Japan
Don't be one of those umbrella holding bike riders in a suit and tie! Not only is this not very effective for keeping you dry, it's actually quite dangers (and illegal). If you're holding it in your hand, you only have one hand to brake. Riding a bicycle in Japan can be dangerous enough without something blocking your vision and acting like a sail. If you're not careful, you may be blown into traffic!
If you're going to be biking a lot, invest in a bike poncho. Rain suits can also do the job, but here are a few reasons why a poncho is better:
The poncho is made for cycling so it attaches to the handlebars and has slots for your hands to keep the poncho spread out over the bicycle (and you!).
It's open on the bottom so you won't feel like you're wearing a sauna suit.
A lot of ponchos also use retroreflective material for added traffic safety.
If you're wearing a backpack, the poncho keeps it covered.
Anyway, I think you get the point.
I bought mine at a local bike shop on sale for about ￥1000. I haven't seen any more like them since then.
There are a lot of bike ponchos on the Amazon Japan website. If you look online, search for 自転車かっぱ (jitenshakappa). Most only have one size and mine fits me no problem!
4. Get rain pants
Umbrellas and ponchos work great for the top half of your body, but on a windy day, your pants will get soaked.
Rain pants also work well for cycling when combined with a poncho.
Frogg Toggs is a brand that was recommended to me by one of my Wilderness Studies teachers. Their rain suits and pants are affordable and, most importantly, waterproof breathable. That means that you won't be soaked from sweat when you get to your destination. There are some rain suits/pants available on the US Amazon site that ship to Japan.
Whatever you decide to go with, just make sure you buy something durable and breathable.
5. Maintain your gear
Now that you have some nice things, it's time to take care of them.
You can apply Scotchgard to boots, poncho, or other rain gear to help them stay waterproof. You can pick up some up at some department stores and sporting goods stores.
If you wear business shoes, there are other sprays you can use to help them repel water. They should be available at your local department store or shoe store.
After wearing your poncho and/or rain pants, be sure to hang them up to dry out. If your shower has a fan, it's the perfect place to do this. It'll keep your gear ready to go and help fight off that musty rain smell!
That's all for my tips on how to beat the rainy season in Japan. How do you get by in the rain? Have any tips of your own? Let me know!