In Japan, it rains nearly twice as much as the global average with a rainy season coming twice a year. The one in early summer is called “Tsuyu” and the other in early autumn “Akisame.” Some weather experts say Japan has six seasons including the pair. For most areas of the country, “Tsuyu” is more serious than “Akisame.” The onset of “Tsuyu” is officially announced by Japan Meteorological Agency every year. The announcement always lets people down as the uncomfortable weather lasts as long as 40 to 50 days.
“Tsuyu” is also called “baiu” which literally means plum rain. It is known that the phrase comes from China, but its exact origin is uncertain. One theory holds that it is because the rainy season comes when plum trees ripen.
The long spell of rainy weather begins from south as the seasonal rain front “baiu zensen” moves from south to north. It begins to influence the southernmost Okinawa region in early May, and reaches the east Kanto and the northeast Tohoku regions in early to mid June. There is no “Tsuyu” in the northernmost prefecture of Hokkaido because the rain front usually loses its strength until it hits the area.
The length of “tsuyu” is more or less the same among regions, but the amount of precipitation greatly varies depending on the area. Generally, it rains more heavily in the south and west than in the east and northeast. The southern part of Kyushu has the heaviest rainfall during the rainy season. The average “Tsuyu” precipitation in the Kyushu area is about 90% greater than that in Tokyo.
What the rainy season usually brings to mind is something unpleasant – mold, food poisoning, bad-smelling laundry, sleepless nights and so on. However, there are activities that can be enjoyed during the rainy season. “Ajisai” or hydrangea viewing is one of them. The flower, regarded as a symbol of “Tsuyu,” comes out during the rainy season in a variety of colors including blue, pink, purple and white. One of the most popular viewing spots near Tokyo is Kamakura city in Kanagawa prefecture with many temples featuring the blossoms. Hasedera Temple and Meigetsuin are among them.
The Meteorological Agency also announces the end of “Tsuyu,” which comes around late July for east Japan. People hear the announcement with mixed feelings. Gloomy days of extremely high humidity may be over, but the end of “Tsuyu” means the arrival of scorching summer days.
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