The meaninglessness of umbrellas

Umbrellas in Shinjuku, August 9, 2003: click for larger image

I had to go into Tokyo yesterday to meet up with someone, right around the time that Typhoon No. 10 was passing through the Kanto region. As I was reaching for the umbrella upon leaving the house, Naoko said imi nai j’aan, which in this instance means something like “it won’t have any meaning.” She was referring to the fact that the strong wind would pretty much render the umbrella useless, not to mention that I might actually ruin the umbrella if the right gust got a hold of it. So naturally I followed her wisdom in such matters.

Nevertheless, when it started pouring as I was putzing around some Shinjuku camera shops waiting for said appointment, I was cursing myself for listening to her, for in that area there was nary any wind, yet plenty of rain. Oh well, a little rain never hurt nobody. It was later, however, as I sipped coffee at the Starbucks at the New South Exit of Shinjuku station, along a pedestrian walkway that even on a balmy clear day can approximate a wind tunnel, that Naoko’s wisdom showed itself.

I lost track of how many umbrellas bit the dust along that walkway during the time I was sitting there. I have to say I did feel a bit of sadistic glee as I watched the parade of people walking by, almost absent-mindedly carrying their umbrellas, knowing full well that just 100 feet or so down the walkway they were going to meet a furious crosswind and that they were headed for a Mary Poppins moment. And I have to say that watching it all, I did feel a bit of smugness with my received wisdom that in a typhoon, umbrellas have no meaning.

– – –

When I got home, the typhoon had more or less passed, and in its wake was left the most glorious rainbow I’ve probably ever seen. In fact, ever so briefly, there was a double rainbow, as you can see in the photo below. I saw many rainbows growing up in Hawaii, but I’m hard-pressed to remember ever seeing a double rainbow before.

Double rainbow in Warabi (Saitama), August 9, 2003: click for larger image

(Click on the top umbrella image and cycle forward through yesterday’s images, or click on the double rainbow image and cycle backwards.)

6 Replies to “The meaninglessness of umbrellas”

  1. I’ve seen several double rainbows, but the first is the most memorable. My friend, Louise, and I were just exiting I-79 and drove on and off the highway cloverleaf four or five times to watch it.

    They are amazing, and difficult to photograph. Your picture is brilliant.

    (P.S. I have a 100 yen umbrella I use in typhoons and heavy winds. It does help and I don’t mind when it turns inside out.)

  2. thanks Kristin for your nice comment. re: your P.S., I’m afraid the turning out of your 100-yen umbrella would have been wishful thinking yesterday (at least at the area I described). The wind was not only turning those cheapo umbrellas inside out, but ripping the vinyl right off those flimsy skeletons. Saw more than a few folks walking by with nothing left of their umbrella but the spokes!

  3. I was also kicking around Shinjuku on Saturday, and yes – even at 100 Yen those see-through plastic umbrellas were not good value for money, ripped, as you say, from the thin silver frames around which they had been tacked!

    I saw more of these umbrellas poking out from the bins, and lying discarded on the road verges, than keeping people dry.


  4. Your little encounter with umbrellas in the typhoon was nice to read. I am in Kichijoji and got to witness the same futile resistance against the weather.

    Then again, I’m one of the goofy foreigners in the neighborhood who is seen clad in rain coat and rain-fly backpack whenever it rains, regardless of the wind.


  5. Wow, that’s a beautiful pic of the rainbows. Truly stunning.

    I too was out in the typhoon on Saturday; I used an umbrella on the way to the store I was visiting, but I decided against it on the way back, for fear of it getting completely destroyed due to the strong winds and sideways rain. I essentially got a free shower, but to be perfectly honest, I rather enjoyed it. I haven’t been totally soaked by rain like that since I was a kid. Felt kinda cool. 🙂


  6. I like to see people with umbrellas coming inside outside in storm. Where can i find it?

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