Saturday, June 09, 2007

Rainy season (tsuyu)

Growing up in sunny California I enjoyed long summer days because of Daylight Savings (called summer time here in Japan). I remember I could play outside past 8pm and still be home before dark. Summer was and still is my favorite season back home. But in Japan it's a different story. According to some haiku masters, there are 5 seasons here in Japan, rainy season being one of them. It has just started here in Odawara and will continue until mid-July. I understand that it is needed for the rice crops to grow and ensure we don't have any water shortages, but personally I can't stand it. I remember the first time I stepped off the plane way back in late June of 1990; I had never experienced such humidity in my life. I felt like I was in a sauna and quickly bought a handkerchief to wipe the perspiration from my face - people in California never use handkerchiefs (except for the few people who use it to blow their nose in). Anyway, I didn't do much research on Japan before arriving and did not expect the humidity nor the rain. I naively thought that it didn't rain in the summer time!

Tsuyu literally translates to "plum rain" because it coincides with the ripening of plums. Farmers are busy now preparing umeboshi or dried plums. This happens to be one of my favorite Japanese foods. Ajisai (hydrangea) is also a symbol of the rainy season. Nearby Hakone is a popular spot to view these flowers right now.

As I'm sitting here right now on this Sunday afternoon, the rain is pouring down. I wish I was back in SUNNY HOT DRY Stockton, California. :)