My first time in Japan kicked off with hot humid air, lush landscapes and every Japanese person I met telling me that Japan has 4 seasons. The latter point was very puzzling to me, a Brit, who also experiences 4 seasons. I had thought that 4 seasons was the norm, but the gasps, widened eyes and clarion ‘SOOOOOO DESSSSUUUNEEEEE’s that came after I said so has since made me think otherwise.
After nearly a year living in Japan I’ve experienced all 4 seasons, starting with a summer that could have been written by Dante himself. The scorching heat and humidity was unlike anything I’d ever known, as were the snakes and poisonous centipedes.
Once the magma of summer melted into Autumn, the season where you can actually leave your house and do things, it was time to travel. The changing leaves were beautiful and nature was home. During these festivities, timid whispers of the deadly winter began.
Tales of frostbite and snowmen forming in your kitchen meant that I was genuinely terrified of the fast approaching ice-fest. When the winter actually came I found it pretty manageable, thanks global warming, and it soon became one of the better seasons for me. I discovered the beauty and solace of 温泉 (onsen/ hot spring) at this point and it’s definitely an experience best enjoyed in winter.
Spring followed with its crisp mornings and beautiful blossoms. Unpopular opinion, 梅 (plum) blossoms are prettier than 桜 (cherry blossoms). Also the heater could finally be switched off. Fashion defrosted too, although living in the 田舎 (countryside) of Japan has led to an overall catastrophic slip in my aesthetic. It’s at this point that I thought it was the end, I had faced every one of the four climate bosses and was preparing to start round 2 walking in the hellish fires of summer.
Much to my surprise- Japan does not have only 4 seasons as, sandwiched between the summer solstice, my birthday, and the beckoning freedom of the July summer holidays sits 梅雨/ tsuyu (rainy season). A full month of consistent downpour and bad weather. It’s no wonder that this season is the secret relative that no-one wants at the party.
So far this rainy season has been exactly that. Rainy. A constant hammering of water that hasn’t let up. So much so that the island of Kyushu where I live is struggling with risks of floods and landslides. Expressways are blocked, schools are closing, roads are flooding and just yesterday, the morning saw elderly people evacuated and by nighttime the whole town was advised to evacuate due to landslide and flood risks.
Happy to report that I survived the night at home, even if it was a scary one.
Now, I’m from the UK. Rain is my thing. It can be annoying, it’s gets everything wet and grey however one of my favourite things to do is to sit with a book and bowl of hot soup listening to the rain outside. I love it. In Japan I’ve had plenty of chance to do that as the rain here is as persistent as my nursery kids demanding high fives. If there wasn’t an impending sense of doom, exacerbated by the apocalyptic grey skies and flickering of Japanese news stations, I’m sure I’d be enjoying it a lot more.
My inexperience with the dangers of tsuyu were made most apparent during my journey home from Nagasaki last weekend. We crossed the sea by ferry and from the port I had a 2 ½ hour drive back.
Well it would’ve been that time if the IC wasn’t closed. I drove clueless past the kanji telling me this information and through the toll before seeing the giant barrier across the road. I had to run to get someone to help me out and then was on the road again. I was driving between fields, surrounded by land overflowing with water, like Ponyo following Sosuke home.
Traffic had really built up approaching the IC, so I decided to keep on the country roads. I ended up taking the very winding, very mountainous road through Itsuki village. The river next to the road was high, dirty-brown and angry-looking. The rain was smacking down and my phone lost service a lot. It got dark pretty quickly. I was happy to get home almost 3 hours later than I expected too and told it as a funny story to one of my teachers the next day.
Turns out the road I took was one of the most dangerous due to high landslide risk, which would explain why I didn’t see any other cars. LOL. This risk was confirmed by the horrified look on my 英会話 (eikaiwa/ English conversation class) student’s faces when I told them about my detour.
Tsuyu has definitely been a learning curve for me. It’s something that was hardly mentioned until right before it started and is something that I’ve never experienced before. It’s also the latest starting Tsuyu in Japan, raising question marks about its duration and intensity.
I was made very aware of my vulnerability as an English person living in rural Japan in a different way than before. This time my inability to understand Japanese and lack of experience with landslides meant that I was at a loss. I felt so misinformed and confused about the situation, where to go, what to do and when to run out of the house waving my arms and screaming ‘oh shit we’re gunna die’.
It’s worrying for the people around me too as, due to GLOBAL WARMING, this type of weather is unlike anything that people have experienced before- putting us all in the same boat. Let’s just hope that the boat drifts us along to calmer, safer waters soon.
If you have any advice or experiences dealing with strange weather, I want to hear about it! Leave a comment below ❤
For my fellow ex-pats in Japan worried about the weather, have a look at the Japan Meteorology Agency for more info.
Stay safe, stay positive!