Singin’ in the rain doesn’t play in Japan very often

Rain through windshield, Kamakura, May 31, 2003: click for larger image (55K)

It has all of a sudden started to pour down rain outside, which I can hear even though my ears are covered with headphones piping in some noisy John Zorn via Winamp. So I figure this is as good a time as any for a “rain post” I’ve written in my head a few times.

The rain is an indication that, despite it just having turned July 30, the season known as tsuyu, or “rainy season,” is still upon us. I don’t have the exact date, but tsuyu should have ended a long time ago. Certainly last year I don’t remember it extending into July, let alone August, which it is bordering on now. I heard the other day that last July, there were something like 25 days where the temperature in the Tokyo area topped 30°C. This year, there have only been 2 or 3 days over the 30° mark. nanka okashii naa (“hmmn, something strange is going on”).

When I mention to Naoko how weird it is, she always comes back with “global warming,” and I come back with my tired “well, if it’s global warming, then why is it still relatively cool.” (I have to admit that my knowledge about Global Warming is woefully inadequate, not extending much beyond knowing that the U.S. was one of the few countries not to sign the Kyoto Protocol.)

Whatever the reason for the strange weather patterns, I’m sure this will all come back to haunt us, and at any moment around the corner a big fat stinking hot and humid summer will emerge to exact its revenge. But for now, I’m not looking a gift horse in the mouth. I am simply loving this weather. I still need to bring my sweat-hanky with me to work, because while the typical summer humidity isn’t as bad as it was last year, it hasn’t entirely disappated either. And I’ve changed my wardrobe to thin short-sleeve shirts and thin slacks. But, still, when I wake up in the morning and see that it is grey outside, as it has seemed to be every morning this summer, I do a little jig inside. And if it’s raining, I’m all the more happier.

While I’m sure others in Japan are pleased that so far the heat has been kept at bay, I sadly suspect that I’m one of the few people in Japan who is very happy at how much rain we’ve had this summer. I’ve tried of late to refrain from making sweeping generalizations about large groups of folk, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and generalize that almost to a person, the Japanese can’t stand rain. At least, I have yet to meet one who said he/she liked it, or at the very least, that the rain didn’t bother him/her one way or the other. (Naturally I haven’t done any scientific polling on this, but I do meet a lot of Japanese people through my job, and weather comes up in conversation with just about all of them — I’m an English teacher in case you didn’t know).

When I try to determine the reasons behind this aversion, the reason most often put forth runs something like “Because my clothes will get wet, and I don’t like the feeling of wet clothes sticking to my body.” Fair enough I suppose, although personally I can’t see the big deal, and anyway, if you’re carrying an umbrella, how wet can your clothes possibly get? Speaking of carrying an umbrella, this is one thing that no Japanese seems to leave home without. (There’s a lot of money to be made by a raincoat manufacturer if they could convince the conformist Japanese female consumer that such an accessory was fashionable). And they do silly things with them, like ride their bikes with one hand on the handlebars and one hand holding an umbrella aloft over their heads. (Not sure if it’s true, but someone told me this was illegal, but you could’ve fooled me, as just about everyone does it).

Naoko says that if I grew up in a place that had so much rain, I wouldn’t like it either. But I remind her that I grew up in a valley in Honolulu (Nuuanu Valley), and that in said valley it rained just about every day, or such is my memory of it. At any rate, I got more than my fair share of rain, more than my fair share of rain-caused inconveniences, and more than my fair share of sticky wet clothes, growing up.

So, whether it’s the sticky clothes or some other reasoning I’m not privy to, their ain’t no singin’ in the rain here in Japan. This morning, I thought I would let Kaika experience rain for the first time, to see what his reaction would be, so I took him outside. It was only the lightest of a drizzle, and only about 5 seconds of it at that, but he was decidedly non-plussed about it, although his eyes did dart up at one moment as if to find out “where the hell did that come from?” However, later when recalling this to my mother-in-law, her response was that ubiquitous Japanese utterance of pity, kawaisou (“The poor thing”). Sigh.