An introduction into Japan's rainy reason, or tsuyu. What tsuyu is like, how Japanese people feel about it, and a focus on the seasonal fruit ume, Japanese plums.
On June 14th 2021, the Kanto region (area that Tokyo is in), officially entered rainy season, or tsuyu (梅雨).
Growing up in America's midwest, I experienced (and adore) the four seasons: Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall. Technically Japan has the same four1 as well. But, in my humble opinion, not really. There is tsuyu - which is technically in the summer, but...honestly, it just feels like its own season.
What does tsuyu mean?
Time for some Kanji (Japanese Chinese-originated characters, 漢字) fun. Tsuyu is spelled 梅雨, or plum (ume 梅) rain (ame 雨). It is exactly that.
Currently it is the plum season in Japan. A very integral fruit in Japanese culture. Two well known uses of plum are pickling (umeboshi) and making plum sake (umeshu).
Of course, there are other uses, but one way it is not consumed is raw. This is due to the sour nature (kind of similar to lemons), in addition to being very astringent (you can get a stomach ache).
And yes, it rains all the time during tsuyu. Here is what my phone says:
To be honest, I like the rain (to a certain extent). It adds a nice atmosphere.
What’s tsuyu like?
Two words: Rainy and humid.
So let’s say you come to Japan during tsuyu. (Which I highly discourage, not necessarily because of the rain, but rather the fact that there’s better seasons.)
Due to the high humidity, mold and food spoilage become a problem. Fun! To prepare myself, I have been reading tips online. For instance, I have come across the following…
- Don’t leave anything out, put it in the fridge
- Leave some space between the wall and furniture so air circulates
- NEVER STOP AIR CIRCULATION IN YOUR HOUSE
And so on and so forth...
How do people feel about tsuyu?
Recently, I was talking to a Japanese friend about our favorite seasons, and I mentioned how I love winter despite many people hating it. This led to the conversation about SAD (or Seasonal Affective Disorder). He then mentioned that people in Japan get SAD during tsuyu.
What!? This “season” is only 4-6 weeks. I didn’t realize that people could get SAD so quickly. I wish I could give you some hard facts, but all I could find on the internet were articles about tsuyu and SAD, and how to overcome it. The point is, if the Weather news in Japan is publishing articles about SAD, it probably is a thing.
I also asked three Japanese people about what they thought about tsuyu. This is what they said:
“It’s so muggy. I hate it. Probably 90% of Japanese don’t like it.” - Woman in her 50s
“It’s my least favorite season of the year because a whole month of summer break is wasted even though I don’t have summer break anymore. But it gives me a good excuse to relax at home with Netflix and candles and I enjoy the breezy air.” - Woman in her 20s
Now that sounds like a good time.
“I hate tsuyu because I get terrible migraines.” - Male in his 30s