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Rainy Season in Japan: When, What to Do & Expect

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The Rainy Season in Japan, often referred to as “Tsuyu,” is a unique and fascinating time to visit this enchanting country. If you’re considering a journey to Japan during this season, it’s essential to understand when it occurs, what to expect, and how to make the most of your trip. The Rainy Season in Japan typically spans from early June to mid-July, depending on the region, offering a blend of unpredictable weather, lush natural beauty, and a variety of indoor and outdoor activities. To help you prepare for your visit, let’s explore what to expect and the delightful experiences that await those who choose to visit Japan in the rainy season.

What is the Rainy Season in Japan?

The wet season in Japan goes by the name Tsuyu (梅雨) or Baiu (梅雨) in Japanese, and it’s nicknamed “plum rain” because it aligns with the period when plums ripen. This season, lasting from early June to mid-July, is characterized by elevated humidity and frequent rainfall, impacting most regions across Japan. The rainy spell is brought about by the clash of chilly northern and warm southern air masses, creating a relatively persistent zone of unstable weather conditions over the Japanese archipelago.

Additionally, it’s important to be aware of Japan’s typhoon season, which primarily occurs from late August through September. Typhoons are powerful tropical storms that can usher in fierce winds and heavy downpours to Japan. Typhoons are typically more erratic and potent than the rainfall during the rainy season. Consequently, it’s essential to keep an eye on the weather forecasts and prepare for potential disruptions if you plan to travel during this period.

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When is the Rainy Season in Japan?

The onset of the rainy season can vary depending on the location. In most parts of Japan, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, it typically spans from the beginning of June through mid-July. Nevertheless, in Okinawa, it commences about a month earlier, usually around early May. Hokkaido, the northernmost prefecture of Japan, doesn’t experience a genuine rainy season, but the early summer weather there tends to be overcast and cool.

Here’s a table displaying the typical start and end dates of the rainy season in selected regions of Japan, as per the information from the Japan Meteorological Agency:

Region

Start

End

Okinawa

May 8

June 23

Southern Kyushu

May 29

July 13

Shikoku

June 4

July 17

Kansai (incl. Kyoto)

June 6

July 19

Kanto (incl. Tokyo)

June 8

July 20

Northern Tohoku

June 12

July 27

Please note that the actual dates may vary slightly from year to year, so it’s wise to keep an eye on local weather updates for the most accurate information.

What to Expect in Japan in the Rainy Season & How to Prepare?

Japan’s rainy season offers a unique and sometimes challenging experience for visitors. However, with some careful planning and preparation, you can still savor the beauty and culture of Japan during this period. Here’s what you should know and how to get ready for the rainy season in Japan:

  • During this season, rain doesn’t fall every single day. To give you an idea, Tokyo witnesses rain on approximately 45% of the days at the height of Tsuyu, while sunny weather graces about 27% of the time. On rainy days, half of them feature light drizzles, while the other half sees more substantial downpours.
  • The timing of the rainy season can vary across Japan, but typically, it spans from early June to mid-July in most parts of the country, except for Okinawa and Hokkaido. Expect humidity and unpredictable weather, so it’s a good idea to stay updated on the forecast and be prepared for abrupt rainfall or even thunderstorms.
  • But here’s the silver lining – the rainy season isn’t all inconvenience. It brings a few benefits like cooler temperatures, fewer crowds, cost-effective prices, and the blossoming of beautiful flowers. This is your chance to admire the vibrant colors of hydrangeas, irises, moss, and other plants that thrive in these moist conditions.
  • If you happen to be confined indoors due to the rain, don’t worry; there are plenty of indoor activities to keep you engaged. Museums, temples, shrines, castles, shopping malls, cafes, and hot springs provide shelter and can possess a unique charm when visited during rainfall.
  • To make the most of your trip during the rainy season, be sure to pack lightweight and breathable clothing, waterproof shoes, and a foldable umbrella with UV protection. Carrying a raincoat or poncho can also be a wise choice for heavier downpours. Don’t forget to bring spare socks because soggy feet can be quite uncomfortable.
  • Appreciate the natural beauty of Japan during the rainy season, as many flowers, such as hydrangeas, irises, and lotuses, come to life during this time, adorning gardens, parks, and streets.
  • Savor seasonal delicacies that are particularly popular in this season, like ayu (sweetfish), unagi (eel), and nagashi somen (cold noodles served in bamboo pipes). These dishes are believed to boost your energy and appetite in the humid weather.
Japan Hydrangeas
Hydrangeas in a Local Park in Japan

Top Things to Do in Japan in Its Rainy Season

Here are some fantastic activities to enjoy in Japan during the rainy season:

  • Visit Tokyo’s Weather Shrine: If you’re hoping for clear skies, a visit to the Kanda Myojin Shrine in Tokyo might bring you luck. This shrine is dedicated to the god of weather. You can even craft a teru teru bozu, a traditional paper doll believed to bring sunshine.
  • Admire Rainy Season Flowers: The rainy season is a perfect time to witness Japan’s stunning blooms, including hydrangeas and irises. You’ll discover them gracing many temples, gardens, and parks. Locations like Meigetsu-in Temple in Kamakura and Horikiri Iris Garden in Tokyo are particularly delightful.
  • Indoor Adventures: Don’t let the rain dampen your spirits. Japan offers an array of indoor attractions, from museums and art galleries to theaters and department stores. You can catch a kabuki performance at the Kabukiza Theater in Ginza or explore the enchanting Ghibli Museum in Mitaka.
  • Shop at Shotengai: For a delightful shopping experience, explore shotengai, covered shopping streets offering a diverse range of shops, eateries, and services. You’ll discover everything from local specialties to souvenirs and snacks. Notable shotengai destinations include Nishiki Market in Kyoto and Shinsaibashi-suji in Osaka.
  • Escape to Hokkaido: If you’d rather avoid the rainy weather altogether, consider a trip to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island. Hokkaido enjoys a mild and dry summer climate, largely unaffected by the rainy season. Here, you can relish the natural beauty, featuring mountains, lakes, and lavender fields, or savor the delectable seafood and dairy products.
  • Explore Kyoto’s Higashiyama District: This traditional town undergoes a captivating transformation during the rainy season. The rain adds a mystical allure to its narrow streets and historic architecture.
  • Relax in Hot Springs Resorts: Resorts like Hakone offer picturesque lakeside views that become especially enchanting in the rain.
  • Visit Serene Temples: Temples like Nachisan Seiganto-ji Temple along the Kumano Kodo trail are a must-see during this season. The lush moss that blankets these temples is at its most vibrant during the rainy season.
Japan Kyoto Nishiki Market
Nishiki Market in Kyoto

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