Leading into Rainy Season

Rainy season is on its way. Okinawa’s 梅雨入り(start of rainy season) was declared yesterday. From there it will proceed east and north until it comes here.

Tsuyu isn’t officially declared until the rainy season front (梅雨前線 tsuyu-zensen) has settled in. Here in the Kanto region, it generally starts at the end of the first week of June and runs until mid-July.

Japan’s rainy season is a small part of Asia’s monsoon weather patterns. The rainy season front (tsuyu-zensen) settles over Japan for six weeks or so, bringing cloudy days and rain thanks to warm and humid Pacific air meeting cooler, drier air over land.

Rainy season’s not isolated to Japan; southern China and Korea also have their own monsoon weather in June and July. At the same time as tsuyu, India is starting the southeast monsoon and Thailand is reaching the peak of its rainy season. It’s all interconnected by winds.

If you pay attention you’ll see the signs of tsyyu a little earlier than its declaration. The dry weather starts to thicken up with humidity even when it isn’t raining. Towards the end of May (that’s now) the forecast predicts lots of cloudy days. The front is coming but it’s not hovering over us just yet.

It’s a good time to check rain gear and do maintenance on drains, dehumidifiers, and muddy spaces. For example, I am going to lay down a stepping stone path from the front door to the mailbox on the barn. This area gets extra squishy in the rain. My path is just temporary, so I’ll use tiles or maybe some of the leftover patio stones, depending on my level of enthusiasm and energy.

Tsuyu is a cultural experience as much as a weather pattern. Just as it begins, two iconic plants do their thing: hydrangeas bloom and plums ripen. Which means now is the time to pick green plums for pickling or making plum wine. Stores across the country will be selling empty glass jars, bags of rock sugar, 2 liter bottles of clear alcohol…and in urban areas, green plums by the kilo. Mine are on a tree in the garden if I decide to make umeshu or pickles this year.

We’ll see how my energy and enthusiasm are in the coming days. If I have to choose between a dry path to the mailbox and pickles, I think a dry path will win.

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Mediatinker, Kristen McQuillin, is an American-born resident of Japan since 1998. This blog chronicles her life, projects, thoughts, and small adventures.