Not so bad for your visit to Japan in the rainy season
Now the southern part of Japan, including Okinawa, Kyushu, Shikoku, Kinki, has entered into the rainy season. The central and northern part of Japan excluding Hokkaido, will be soon into it. The weather news says that the entry into the rainy season in Amami Island near Okinawa on May 25 is the latest one on record at the local agency. Is it due to the global warming? Visitors may think that the rainy season is improper to make a trip in Japan. Herein, I would like to provide you with what the rainy season in Japan is and some hints to enjoy your visit here even in the rainy season.
What is the "Tsuyu" ?
What is the "Tsuyu" ? We call the rainy season "Tsuyu, 梅雨", which literally means "plum rain" because plum trees bear fruits just during the rainy season. Ripen plum fruits will be salted down and dried in the sun. It features a strong sourness resulting from citric acid which increases your appetite and also works as alleviation of the effects of food poisoning especially during this wet season. Green plum will be preserved in clear liquor "sho-chu" with sugar to become sweet and mild plum liquor, which is very popular among ladies as an aperitif.
A rain front usually settles over the middle of the western part of Japan and all area except Hokkaido have a rainy season in the beginning of summer, which usually lasts from early June to mid-July. The rain front is caused by the collision between cold high pressures blowing from the Okhotsk Sea and warm high pressures from the Pacific above the island chain, thus generating unsteady atmospheric conditions and the seasonal rain front. Being weakened by the growth of high pressures from the Pacific, the rainy season comes to an end, and the mid-summer will really come here.
During this period, , "taue" or 田植, transplanting rice seedlings from a nursery to a rice paddy, is performed. Planting rice seeds for rice seedlings was at its peak before and after 88th night that corresponds to the 88th day counting from the first day of spring as you may have read in my last "Cafe Negishi".
Again, I will go back to the subject that June is believed not a proper month for traveling in the rainy season among visitors. The report of our tour guides of June of the last year shows interestingly that participants of Mt. Fuji & Hakone Tour enjoyed views of Mt. Fuji with the visibility rate 80%, suggesting that they saw it on 24 days out of 30 days. We usually think that March, April, October & November are good months for traveling. However, the report says that the visibility rates are 92, 64, 81 & 80% respectively. So you still enjoy it even in June with similar chance to October or November.
What are "attractions" in the rainy season?
What are "attractions" in the rainy season?I think that flowers are one of attractions in the rainy season. Among a wide variety of flowers, hydrangea is representative one of the rainy season. It has an atmosphere of profundity and gloominess increased through darkness in cloudy or rain days while it has also lustrousness and flamboyance created through changing of its colors. Therefore, you never miss it whenever you visit a temple in the rainy season.
Hydrangea is called "Aji-sai", 紫陽花
Hydrangea is called "Aji-sai", 紫陽花, literally means purple-sun-flower. It has a flower bunch of 20 cm in diameter on the tip of each new branch. Most of them are ornamental flowers which are deformed from leaves. It has four or five flower petals color of which will change from pale to light pink, deep purple and indigo or from pale to indigo. So it is also known as "Seven-time changing of Hydrangea".
The color of hydrangea is subject to substances such as antosinia which affect color while soils quality of acid or alkali do. It is known that its color of indigo is under the influence of acid and pink under alkali.
Generally speaking, soils in Japan are acid, so the color of most of hydrangea is naturally indigo. With adding limestone into soils artificially, the color will change into pink. Furthermore, fertilizers containing less nitrogen change the color from pink to indigo. Fertilizers containing more nitrogen and less potassium deepen pink and ones with more potassium deepen blue.
The original home of hydrangea is believed Japan. In 1879, Japanese hydrangea was introduced to the Europe, where 400 to 500 kinds of hydrangea were improved while we have only about 150 local species of hydrangea in Japan. Some of such hydrangea grown in Europe have been imported to Japan as potted plants. Nowadays, most of large and colorful ones in pots on market in Japan should be European-grown up ones. Can you find some of them in your neighborhood.
Herein, I would like to tell you a romantic episode associated with hydrangea. During the national isolation of Japan in the Edo period (17th -19th century) only which allowed Chinese and Dutch to enter and leave Japan, a German doctor Philipp Franz von Siebold, who pretended to be Dutch, stay several years and compiled "Japanese flora"including 14 kinds of hydrangea because he was very interested in this flower such that he named the largest type Otakusa, which has been still the botanical name for hydrangea, after his lover’s name "Otaki-san".
If you join TripleLights Tours "Mt. Fuji & Hakone Tour" during the rainy season, you can enjoy hydrangea growing naturally on the way, especially on the road along Hakone Tozan railways from Miyanoshita to Odawara Station. On “the Kamakura walking tour or walking”, you surely have a lot of chance to see domesticated ones in the Hase Temple or other temples.
Good chance to enjoy the concept of Japanese cultures.
Good chance to enjoy the concept of Japanese cultures.This is my personal feeling, but I think that the wabi and sabi, which are terms to be used to express the tranquility of Japanese culture,are felt especially on the rainy days more than on fine days. Therefore, I strongly recommend you to visit one of Japanese gardens near your hotel when you happen to stay in Japan during the rainy season.
Thanks to washing-away of dust from and adding moistures to trees by occasional rainfalls, fresh greenery covering mountains, fields and gardens are heightened and refined. In addition, cloudy or rainy weathers, which are felt gloomy, allows you to sense a touch of the wabi, the beauty to be found in spareness & simplicity and sabi, quiet simplicity in them.
Japanese gardens are designed to be a faithful representation of nature and to impart a sense of simple, unspoiled beauty. So their styles have a sharp contrast with that of Western gardens which are arranged on the concept of the geometrical beauty. Japanese gardens have three styles; Karesansui , Chaniwa & Tsukiyama.
Karesansui , 枯山水
Karesansui , 枯山水, style of garden developed in the Muromachi Era (14th-16th century) under the influence of Chinese-style landscape painting of the Sung & Ming dynasties introduced from China. The garden does not use any water, but represent mountains and lakes or ponds by using natural landscape. It features a part of landscape with using several different size of stones and symbolizes water with using pebbles.
Chaniwa, 茶庭, is the garden adjacent to a ceremonial teahouse. This style of garden avoids any suggestion of showiness, and seeks the utmost simplicity and naturalness. It includes a stone lantern, a bench and stepping-stones.
Tsukiyama , 築山
Tsukiyama , 築山, uses earth and sand to compare to mountains in the garden. Tsukiyama garden is arranged to show nature in miniature, with hills, ponds and streams. Furthermore, a lot of typical Japanese gardens are easily accessible from Tokyo in a half or single day by local transportation, recommendable even on rain days to enjoy the very beauty of them to make sure what I mentioned before. Finally, let’s drive gloomy feeling away by drinking a glass of beer in the cafe!!