June is called Minazuki in Japan. The word is consisted of Mizu (water) + No (of) + Tsuki (month), so it is the month of water.
In fact, June is the season for long rains, known as the "tsuyu (梅雨)" or rainy season. It is also the time of year when the rice paddies are flooded, therefore, rain has been a blessing in itself for the agrarian people.
This article explains the Japanese sensitivity to rain and how to spend the rainy season.
'Tsuyu' is Japan’s 5th Season
The 'tsuyu' rainy season in Japan is a season of frequent rainfall that lasts from the end of May to mid-July. Japan has four distinct seasons, but when the one and half month of 'tsuyu' rainy season is included, Japan is also known as a country of five seasons.
The amount of rainfall is one of the highest in the world, and the Japanese people have lived with and benefited from the rain even though they are sometimes troubled by it.
Because the people have deeply observed the rain in their daily lives and have distinguished the minute differences, Japan has many words to describe the rain. According to one theory, there are more than 400 words for rain alone. Rain has also been written in many poems and often depicted as a motif in ukiyoe woodblock prints.
During the tsuyu rainy season, when the rain continues to fall gently and calmly, you would be able to feel how the Japanese have cultivated the sense of tranquility and beauty.
'Tsuyu (梅雨)' and the Plum Work
The word '梅雨' means "rain (雨) that falls when plum fruits (梅) are ripening". The plum has indeed long been a favorite flower of the Japanese people.
While cherry blossoms are the most popular flower for Hanami watching today, plum blossoms were the most popular one to appreciate from the Nara Period (710-794) to the early Heian Period (794-1185). In Japan's oldest collection of waka poems, Manyoshu, there are 118 poems about plum blossoms, far more than the 44 poems about cherry blossoms.
In addition to appreciating the flowers, plum fruits have also been used for food. Plum fruits can be preserved for a long time by soaking them in salt or sake, so they are very useful when prepared.
One of the most common foods using plums is 'umeboshi'. Umeboshi are made by pickling green plums in salt and drying them in the sun. They are rich in citric acid and minerals, which help relieve fatigue and sterilize the body, and it has long been said, "If you eat umeboshi morning and evening, you will never need a doctor".
The preparation of plum starts around the time of the tsuyu rainy season, when the harvesting of the plum fruit begins. It is a logical process before the hot summer months and the plum work is filled with the wisdom of Japanese people's daily life.
How to Enjoy the Tsuyu Rainy Season
It keeps raining even though you have come all the way to Japan.... But that doesn't mean you have to give up on enjoying the season. Here are some ways to enjoy it.
Go to see hydrangeas
One of the best things about this season is the hydrangeas. Sunny days are fine, but seeing them blooming in the rain is exceptionally beautiful. The blue-purple and red-purple flowers and green leaves look even more vivid when wet with rain. Even on a dreary day, they brighten the hearts of those who see them. There are many places famous for hydrangeas throughout Japan, so why not visit one?
Go to see iris
Iris is another typical flower that blooms during the rainy season. It is a traditional gardening plant that was improved and developed in Japan, reflecting the country's climatic conditions and the Japanese people's unique, meticulous sensibility. The flower's fragile yet dignified appearance is beautiful and will hold one's head high of those who admire it.
Buy an umbrella
Japan, where it rains a lot, is an advanced country for umbrellas. There is a wide variety of colors and patterns to choose from, and it is fun just to look at them. Umbrellas with enhanced functions, such as one-touch umbrellas that open with the push of a button, are available. Japanese-style paper umbrellas with a bull's eye design and compact, easy-to-carry folding umbrellas are also popular among foreign tourists. They are also recommended as souvenirs.
Stories related to the four seasons
- January, A Harmonious Family Moment
- February, Demons Out! Fortune In!
- March, Hina Festival for Girls
- April, Cherry blossoms in full bloom
- May, Carp streamers swimming in the sky
- June, Rain falls when plum fruits are ripening
- July, Lovers Meeting across the Milky way on Tanabata
- August, Obon to welcome ancestors back home
- September, Can you see the moon rabbit?
- October, When 8 million deities gather at Izumo Taisha
- November, Shichi-Go-San Festival to celebrate kids' growth
- December, Japanese way of spending Christmas