The word tsuyu [梅雨], the word for Japan’s early summer rainy season is made up of the kanji characters for “plum” and “rain”. The precipitation that falls during the rainy season is essential for rice cultivation and also has a direct impact on sake production. It is also the time of brightly colored hydrangea blooms and Japanese gardens look gorgeous. Sounds quite nice. Romantic even. It’s not.
The weather front that sets off the rainy season with its high humidity usually hits Hiroshima in the first week of June (around the time of the Tōkasan yukata festival) and hangs around until around around the 3rd week of July. In fact, it is rare for tsuyu to last much beyond the middle of July and the amount of rain that falls varies widely year to year. You can expect occasional, beautiful clear days to punctuate the season, but there will definitely be rain, and lots of it.
Buy an umbrella
When it rains, it pours and, thanks to the mind-boggling levels of humidity that come with tsuyu, a rainwear just soaks you from the inside. Plastic brollies from convenience stores are cheap and, well, convenient, but their ubiquity makes them more prone to being taken “by mistake” from outside stores.
Save your shoes
Once soaked, shoes can forever to dry out at this time of year. Move from place to place in sandals or why not try traditional wooden geta that keep your feet elevated.
Visit places that look great in the rain and are crowd free at this time of year. Shukkei-en Garden and Mitaki Temple take on a completely different character and have gazebos under which to picnic. The air at the Ono Wildlife Sanctuary, in the mountains of Hatsukaichi, is slightly cooler that at sea level and you can see the tree frogs laying their eggs sacs in June. The lotus flowers are also in bloom at this time of year at Jah-no-ike Lake near Gokuraku-ji Temple.
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Strike while the weather is dry
Be flexible, if you wake up to clear skies, get out and make the most of it. Reschedule any museum trips that you might have planned for that day; You don’t know when the next gap in the rain will come.