Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Only in Japan: Plums and the Rainy Season

A thunderhead forming in the afternoon in Matsudo, Chiba Japan. Tsuyu 2011
Japan is currently in the rainy season, or monsoon season.  In fact this time of year Japan will receive most of its needed rain to maintain vital crops like rice, tea leaves, grain, etc.  The rainy season in Japanese is called Tsuyu. 梅雨 The word is the combination of the character for plum, Ume, and rain, Ame. This is the peak harvest time for Japanese plums in Japan. Hence the reference and importance of the character. Also if you look at the word Mainichi 毎日, meaning everyday, you can see the first character is also part of the word 梅 Ume, Japanese plum. The choice of the characer 梅 points to the fact that it rains almost everyday.

So quick quiz- Rainy Season.........Tsuyu.........梅雨
                       Plum.......................Ume..........梅
         Rain.......................Ame...........雨
         Everyday................Mainichi.....毎日

Now if you are asking yourself why don`t they call it UmeAme instead of Tsuyu.  Well that is because often times when combining two or more characters together sounds can change accorrding to rule or be selected by creator of the word. But that is a whole other Japanese lesson.  Back to the topic...
Along with heat and humidity rising, squalls and thunderstorms often abruptly arrive unleashing torrents of rain.  Flooding is quite common during this season but Japan`s many rivers and engineered aquaducts and waterways help alleviate this so there is very limited damage from flood water general speaking. 

On some days it can be in the 30s Celsius (90s F) and in the afternoon clouds of thunder and lightning turn the sky black as night. Other times you wake up and it is gray and misty outside.  Make no mistake about it when it is rainy season you will get wet.

This video was taken not long after the cloud from the photo at the title passed by and turned the sky dark and dumped the rain on everybody. This late afternoon rain is called Yuudachi 夕立.

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The rain lasted less than 5 minutes and as you can see in this next clip all is well and the sky is relatively clear.

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