How to Survive Rainy Season (Without a Car)

Many people in Japan like to say that there are five seasons here: Winter, Spring, Rainy, Summer, and Fall.  Rainy season or, tsuyu, lasts from the beginning of June to mid-July.  Typically it does not rain every day, but there is rarely enough time between storms to let your clothes dry.  Thankfully for me, my shower fan has been designed to turn my shower room into a giant dryer.  It is a pretty big energy drain, so I try to use it sparingly, but sometimes you really just need your shirt to dry before it starts smelling mildewy.

Last year was the worst rainy season in recent memory, according to a lot of my friends here.  It rained for a solid month, with no more than a scant few hours of semi-dryness.  Thankfully (I only say thankfully because it let me avoid the rain problem), I was able to avoid the worry of commuting in rain last year because I spent over a week in the hospital, followed by two months of taxi drives to and from work.

However, this year I will be walking or biking through all of it, so I have tried to get my battle plan in order.  The first choice is whether to bike or walk to work.  The bike ride takes 7 minutes, but I cannot hold an umbrella.  The walk takes 20 minutes, but my feet and legs are probably going to get wet.  The deciding factor is typically the wind.

If it is raining straight up and down, I can walk.  For this I need:

  • A change of socks
  • My waterproofed hiking boots
  • Water-resistant pants, but not my waterproof pants.  My legs will get wet, but I will be more comfortable walking in my more breathable water-resistant pants
  • An umbrella, obviously
  • A small towel

If it is raining any other direction (diagonally, horizontally, whirlwind-ly), then I bike because I’m going to get wet either way, so I might as well have a shorter commute.  This does require more prep, though:

  • Running tights or shorts
  • Wicking/quick drying shirt
  • Glasses case
  • Work shirt
  • Work pants
  • Towel
  • Rain pants
  • Raincoat
  • Hiking boots
  • Helmet
  • Waterproof backpack cover (sometimes, normally my backpack is waterproof enough)

I have decided to claim one of the lockers in the women’s changing room at work as my own this year.  I will bring a blowdryer to leave here soon and hopefully will have a system worked out well enough that I can be relatively dry and comfortable at work, despite the pervasive stickiness.  The system seems to be working pretty well so far, but we will see if it breaks down as tsuyu progresses.  I do enjoy having a readymade excuse as to why I’m slightly damp all the time: I can blame it on the fact that I was rained on and not that I am sweating buckets because it is so hot and humid all the time.

Just to further illustrate how frustrating tsuyu is, I would like to turn your attention to the fact that we put down newspaper to walk on in the school hallways because otherwise the floors get dangerously slick.  When I was on crutches, this was particularly bad.  Especially when I had to put a hand on the wall in the bathroom to change into the bathroom slippers and my hand would slip.  The benefit of rainy season is that it almost makes me look forward to the Japanese summer.



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