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Have you heard about the rainy season in Japan? There are certain times of year when you can definitely expect rain, or even a torrential downpour. Being soaked in the rain really triggers my travel anxiety and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) because it feels like all the germs are sticking to me. Plus, I really hate being in wet clothes (jeans are the worst!). That’s why I do everything I can to stay dry!
Whether or not you can relate, you won’t want to be caught off guard. Being unprepared for the blustery weather can really derail your travel plans. Fortunately, there are some really easy things you can do to stay warm and dry while still having a blast. We learned a lot during our most recent visit, so here are some travel tips for surviving Japan’s rainy season!
When Is The Rainy Season in Japan?
In many parts of the world, summer is the driest time of year. That’s how it is where we live in Boise, for example. In Japan, the rain season begins in early June and doesn’t taper off until mid July. It’s called tsuyu (sometimes “baiyu”) which means “plum rain,” because plums ripen during this time. We call it plum rain because it feels like literal plums are hitting you in the face. The rain in Japan is intense!
While this is a general description of the rainy season in Japan, it does vary somewhat across the country. Some areas, such as Hokkaido and Ogasawars Islands (northern Japan) see less rain, while it hits Okinawa a month earlier. Here’s an overview of what to expect by region:
- Okinawa: May 8 – June 23
- Southern Kyushu: May 29 – July 13
- Shikoku: June 4 – July 17
- Kansai (incl. Osaka): June 6 – July 19
- Kanto (incl. Tokyo): June 8 – July 20
- Northern Tohoku: June 12 – July 27
A Word About Typhoons in Japan
You may have heard people talk about typhoons, and if you visit Japan between July and October, you may actually live through one. According to meteorological data collected over the past thirty years, about 11 typhoons approach Japan every year.
Don’t take typhoons lightly. In October 2019, Typhoon Hagibis killed more than 80 people and caused significant flooding and landslides. While this post is intended to provide some lighthearted suggestions for handing the rainy season in Japan, it’s important to always keep an eye on the forecast.
If things seem ominous, take cover. It’s hard when you’re traveling someplace where you don’t speak the language, but there are often English instructions and the Japanese are always willing to help. Don’t take any unnecessary risks. Things can get serious very quickly.
Survive Japan’s Rainy Season — Head Inside
Yes, this seems like a no-brainer, but if it’s pouring rain, head inside. There are many, many things to see and do in Japan while you take shelter from the blustery weather. While in Hiroshima, we spent time in the Memorial Museum, Hiroshima Castle and even the Shinkansen train station. In Osaka, we found a Pokemon Center right at Osaka City Station!
There was no shortage of dry things to do in Tokyo, either. We found our way to a shopping center in Shibuya and, in the basement, there were many great restaurants, including Tandoori. We filled our bellies, and by the time we were done, the clouds had cleared.
Umbrellas Are Very Affordable in Japan
While walking around Kyoto, things got a little drizzly. We noticed so many people carrying around clear umbrellas. When we stopped at a Family Mart convenience store for snacks, we spotted them. Along with our drinks and corn dogs, we bought one and the total bill came to less than $12!
It’s always awkward to try to share an umbrella with someone for more than a few feet. Fortunately, we had also packed a bright pink one from home, so were both able to stay dry in the rain. I’ll admit that we both wanted the cool clear umbrella, though! Still, staying warm and dry helped keep our travel anxiety symptoms in check. We hate the feeling of being soaked!
Just Get the Poncho
It’s not common to see people wearing rain ponchos on the streets in North America, but we saw them everywhere in Japan. In fact, the weather was so bad one day that we stopped at a Lawson for drinks and bought a couple. Again, they were affordably priced and we were mad that we hadn’t just bought them sooner. They even came with a little pouch for storing when not in use. Really, this is one of my favorite of ways to guard against the rainy season in Japan.
Incredibly, despite how inexpensive they were (about $6 each), they were very sturdy and effective. It felt like a cocoon that protected us from the rain and our travel OCD! We wore them all day at Fuji-Q Highland and we were able to power through some less than favorable weather.
Look for Passageways to Escape Japan’s Rainy Season
We were awestruck by the towering buildings in major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. We were equally impressed by the network of underground tunnels and above ground walkways that connect many of them. Growing up in Montreal, there were many of these types of things to avoid the harsh winter conditions. It was cool to find them in Japan.
You won’t always have these options, but if the weather is bad, take a moment to look for indoor passageways. You might be surprised by how many exist. While exploring Osaka, we walked from Shinsaibashi to Dotonbori and Amerika-Mura (stopping at Starbucks and 7-Eleven along the way!) without ever leaving the underground!
Watch the Weather Alerts During Rain Season in Japan
The easiest of our five tips for surviving Japan’s rainy season, of course, is to keep an eye on the forecast. You’d think with my travel anxiety and OCD that I would have been more vigilant, but I wasn’t. I learned this one the hard way! Subscribe to updates, if convenient, so that you’ll receive the most up-to-date weather reports.
This came in handy during our trip to Fuji-Q Highland. After trekking all the way up to the base of Mount Fuji from Tokyo, it was pouring and seemed doubtful that we’d make it on any rides. A quick look at the weather radar showed that, clear skies were on the horizon. We waited it out in hopes that the clouds would clear, and that’s exactly what happened!
When we go back to Japan in 2020, we’ll have a game plan for the rain when it comes. The droplets feel so much thicker and larger than they are in North America, and the intensity really took us by surprise. When you’re far away from home and can’t go home to a drawer full of warm, dry clothes, it can feel pretty miserable to get caught in the rain. We hope these tips will help you be prepared if you’re in Japan during the rainy season!
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