How unpleasantly hot and humid is Japan's rainy season, and what can I do to prepare?
March 4, 2009 1:57 PM   Subscribe

How unpleasantly hot and humid is Japan's rainy season, and what can I do to prepare?

I'm going to Japan on holiday for about 10 days during the middle of June this year, which as I understand it is right in the middle of tsuyu, the rainy season. (No possibility of changing dates. I'll be in Tokyo for maybe half the time, and various other places around Japan as yet undetermined.)

Everything I read keeps telling me about how horrible the heat and humidity are during this time. I live in Britain and don't enjoy very hot weather, so I'm probably even less used to this than visitors from other countries might be, and am a little concerned about it. (The rain itself doesn't bother me at all, just the heat and humidity.)

How unpleasant am I going to find this weather? Is it going to seriously affect my holiday? Does it get worse the more it rains? Does it get better at night? Do most places have air-conditioning?

And, any and all suggestions as to what I can do to lessen the effects are very welcome. Thanks!
posted by Kirn to Travel & Transportation around Japan (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
 
Best answer: The rainy reason is not uncomfortably hot and humid in Japan - it's the summer (which comes straight after) that you've got to watch out for. It's an absolute killer.

Rainy season tends to be a bit gray and dreary (and of course wet), but it doesn't rain continuously or all day, only in short bursts, and it doesn't rain every day. I think you'll do fine - it's a great time to head for the onsens.

If you can time getting to Japan a week or so before the rainy season, sometimes Japan has a mini-summer for a week or so, which is lovely.
posted by dydecker at 2:09 PM on March 4, 2009


Note that I'm not meteorologist, but if you think about it, it makes sense: humidity is water vapour in the air, and when it rains the air gets cleared of all of that. So it makes sense that the rainy season is much less muggy than the summer that comes after it. It is even--dare I say it--quite pleasant.
posted by dydecker at 2:13 PM on March 4, 2009


Yeah, dydecker is right. the rainy season isn't bad at all re heat, humidity, etc. Just bring shoes that don't let much water in, and carry an umbrella.
posted by No-sword at 2:29 PM on March 4, 2009


It is true that the rainy season is cooler than the rest of the summer, but if the whinging (sp?) I had to endure is any indication it is probably still too hot and humid for a Britishers liking.

There are two big positives to the rainy season:
1) There is no longer any pollen in the air (spring is a terrible time for allergies in Japan)
2) Fewer Japanese tourists

If public transit in Tokyo is anything like in Osaka/Kyoto then the insides of trains/buses will be unbearable if you are not taller than the average commuter (5'10" is OK in Kansai but people may be taller in Tokyo).

You should always take an umbrella with you, but if you lose/forget yours don't feel any guilt over taking someone else's from an umbrella stand. Everyone does it.

I'd recommend wearing sandals - they dry much easier than shoes.

You'll be able to get free plastic fans from people advertising stuff, but if you want something a bit more stylish you can buy nice ones fairly cheap. Handkerchiefs are good for wiping off sweaty foreheads.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 2:43 PM on March 4, 2009


Best answer: It's not bad if you're prepared. Though it will be the rainy season that doesn't mean it will rain every day. Most Japanese people prefer to stay home rather than go out in the rain so everything will be less crowded. Also, it's certainly much hotter in July and August than in June.

If you're feeling too hot have a shaved ice with syrup (かきごおり) . This dish is cheap, available almost everywhere and works like internal air conditioning. You'll feel cool and sweat free up to an hour later. I swear that it's how people get through August without dying of heat stroke. I like mine with green tea syrup.

If you're staying in nicer accommodations you will likely have air conditioning. Not every restaurant, attraction or shop will be air conditioned. The ones that do will usually have automatic glass sliding doors.

Just be aware that typhoon season starts in May. Luckily, the typhoons earlier in the season are much gentler than those in August or September. Businesses might shut down and the trains, especially the Shinkansen, will stop running. I've been through several typhoons during trips to Japan and I try not to let them coop me up during one of my precious vacation days if the winds aren't too bad. I've had the phoenix hall in Uji to myself, gotten soaked while walking around Arita, sat in stalled trains for hours outside of Gifu city while waiting for the weather to clear up. It's all in good fun if your plans are successful.
posted by Alison at 2:49 PM on March 4, 2009


^ I am 6' 1" and didn't have any problems with public transit in Tokyo in the 90s. In general though when you're standing in a crowded train you see a sea of head-tops.

Don't wear sandals -- that'll weird the Japanese right out.

Don't take somebody else's umbrella. Sheesh.

Tsuyu in Tokyo wasn't bad. Late July / August / early Sept, on the other hand, wooh boy. Just like New Orleans.
posted by troy at 2:49 PM on March 4, 2009


I agree in not taking someone else's umbrella. They sell clear, plastic ones for 300 yen(~£2) at almost every shop when it starts raining out. It costs 2 pounds. You can't go wrong with that. By the end of my stay in Japan, I think I had accumulated about 4 or 5 of them.

Larger city buildings are more likely to have air conditioning/heating than smaller shops and restaurants. Same goes with trains. I think the Yamanote line in Tokyo has air conditioning, but some of the smaller lines don't.

Sandals and open toed shoes are becoming more widely accepted so they might not be completely off limits...for girls at least. I don't think they've quite opened up to guys wearing sandals yet.

If you get too hot, pick up a plastic hand fan. It works both as a cooling agent and as neat souvenir.
posted by nikkorizz at 3:39 PM on March 4, 2009


Best answer: Don't wear cotton t-shirts. By about half-way through the day you'll start to develop a funky stench, mostly a mixture of laundry detergent and sweat.

Instead, wear a breathable synthetic fabric meant for tropical backpacking. A linen shirt is also helpful. It's all I wear during the summer in Japan.

Make sure you have two changes of underwear and socks for each day.

Sleeping at night will be challenging, so make sure you stay in places with A/C.

Still, I always found the evenings to be quite cool, or even cold, during tsuyu.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I come from a cool, dry climate, but I absolutely love tsuyu. I learned to not mind sweating so much.

Everything is so beautiful and green (I lived in the country), and the sky is lovely. It's a magical time.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:41 PM on March 4, 2009


June should be OK as it's just starting to get hot, but I'm use to it. I live in the Osaka-Kobe area and had my mother come around May and and she was floored by the humidity. Best piece of advice I can think of is to carry around a towel in your bag. The rectangular ones that are used and sold at onsen work great. You will get sweaty.

Sandals might be ok in some places, I wear them often in the summer, but in urban Tokyo or Osaka it might not be the best thing to do. Those streets are dirty.

Have a fun trip!
posted by sleepytako at 3:48 PM on March 4, 2009


Best answer: Just to through in a different voice, I can't stand the rainy season. It's not overly hot, but it is damp. Here in the Kanto area, it feels like everything is wet for the entire month. Damp as in you can't get fully dry, inside walls sweating damp. There are loads of de-humidifying products in Japan, and likely, if you're staying in a modern hotel, it will be dry. Staying in traditional style ryokans, it's likely to be damp. And as someone who likes cooler weather, June for me is just at the start of stupidly hot Chiba weather.

Wear light, breathable clothes that dry easily. Think of the dry-fit type material that Nike uses for sportswear. You should be able to pick up normal clothes that have that. Make sure your shoes are water proof, and you've got quick drying socks. I would avoid bringing any kind of rainslicker/rain coat, as a) they'll take up precious space in your bags, and b) it's very, very unpleasant wearing a rain coat in tsuyu if it doesn't breathe well. Like walking around in a private hothouse.

And be prepared for something I found pretty unpleasant the first time it happened: warm rain. I always thought rain was there to cool you down. Gah.
posted by Ghidorah at 4:43 PM on March 4, 2009


June should be fine; it's August that is truly horrible.

Don't steal umbrellas! Just because kids and drunks do it, it doesn't mean you should.
posted by betweenthebars at 5:12 PM on March 4, 2009


Pretty much repeating what everyone here is saying. In Tokyo June is fine. August will destroy you.* And after living in San Francisco for a dozen years I'm pretty sensitive to hot wet weather.

In general the further south you go the hotter and more rainy it will be.

Don't bother bringing an umbrella on your trip, you can buy them everywhere cheap (Convenience stores, esp). But do bring two pairs of walking shoes so one pair can dry while you wear the other. I'd recommend against sandals for practical reasons. Tokyo is dense enough you'll get your toes stepped on.


* It pretty much destroyed my clothes since I had to do laundry nearly every day from changing out of seat-soaked clothes several times a day. Ugh.

posted by Ookseer at 6:27 PM on March 4, 2009


Best answer: Just to add to the other comments:

- Don't take someone else's umbrella.
- Bring or buy a tenugui (handkerchief) and either an uchiwa (non-folding fan) or sensu (folding fan) in addition to a folding umbrella, and carry them everywhere regardless of the weather forecast. You will be glad you did.
- Wear sandals if you like -- if people are "weirded out" they won't tell you to your face. But if you go sightseeing where there are temples, you may be asked to remove your shoes, so being able to go around in socked feet is a plus.
- All trains in the central metropolitan areas have air conditioning these days. Avoid the cars that have the air conditioning set low (弱冷房車両).
- Wear deodorant, and be prepared for the masses of Japanese who do not. Trains in the summer can get a bit smelly, especially the ones with weak air conditioning (see above)
- There is the possibility that a typhoon will approach Japan while you are here. Be prepared to replace your umbrella at least once should wind gusts turn it inside out.
posted by armage at 8:59 PM on March 4, 2009


Response by poster: Thanks very much guys, a lot of useful answers and you've set my mind to rest, if only by pointing out that the season which really WOULD have killed me doesn't come till later!
posted by Kirn at 1:36 AM on March 5, 2009


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