Rainy Season, known as tsuyu in Japanese starts roughly from early to mid-June and ends around the second or third week of July. Depending on where you are on the island, Rainy Season can start mid-May if you’re in Okinawa; mid-June if you’re in the Kanto/Kansai area or bypass you completely if you’re lucky enough to be living up in Hokkaido where the season rain front disappears before reaching the northern islands.
Rainy Season in Japan can really put a damper on your plans if you don’t prepare as rains come down heavily and humidity climbs to well above 75%. However, this does not mean that you have to confine yourself to your home or hotel room. There are plenty of things to do even when it’s sheeting rain outside. Let’s take a look at some.
Literally translating to “shopping street” in English, shotengai are traditional open-air but roofed streets lined with local mom-and-pop shops. Conveniently situated near train and subway stations, shotengai is a Japanese tradition dating back hundreds of years; and currently, there are an estimated 15,000 shotengai scattered around Japan.
Evidence of Shotengai in Japanese cities and towns can be traced back to the medieval markets of 16th century Japan where they were seen as the lifeblood of the community. Some typical shops found in traditional Shotengai include:
- Panya or bakeries
- Ochaya or tea shops
- Yaoya or greengrocers
- Kissaten or traditional cafes
- Washokudo or restaurants
Some older, more traditional Shotengai lead out to temples and shrines but their more contemporary counterparts connect to public transit and can sometimes even be underground.
If you’re in Tokyo, some famous Shotengai to hit up include:
- Nakano Broadway – for the anime and manga lovers, this 4-floor shopping mall is near Nakano Station and connected to Nakano Sunmall, a 224m long Shontengai offering boutiques, cafes, and izakayas. Its décor has changed little since the 1960s, giving it a nostalgic, retro vibe.
- Takeshita Dori – the birthplace of the unique street fashion, Harajuku style, created back in the late 1970s, this is a 350m long Shotengai near Harajuku Station lined with clothes shops, quirky stores, and souvenir shops.
- Togoshi Ginza – the Ginza district is known for its high-end, luxury shopping but tucked away is an old-school, Showa era Shotengai with shops offering traditional okonomiyaki and thrift stores.
If you’re in Osaka, check out Shinsaibashi, a 580m long Shotengai that has been a part of Osaka’s cultural history for over 400 years. Located in the city’s biggest and most popular shopping district, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to shops.
If you happen to be up in Sapporo then Ekimae Dori is where you’ll want to go if the weather’s a bit gloomy. An underground, 520m long Shotengai, it runs beneath Sapporo’s main city street and connects to Odori Park, famous for hosting the city’s annual Ice Festival.
Lastly, if you’re in Japan’s old capital, Kyoto, Nishiki, located in central Kyoto and near Sanjou Station is a traditional Shotengai lined with traditional shops and restaurants for all your food and souvenir shopping needs.
If shopping local and organic is important to you and you’re on the hunt for a new place to live, feel free to ask a Village House representative if they’ve any rental properties near or within walking distance to a Shotengai.
There is no shortage of indoor activities in Japan – everything from museums to indoor arcades and theme parks to aquariums to workshops are there for your entertainment.
If you’re looking to learn more about Japan’s culture and history, why not hit up a museum? If you’re in Tokyo, you can check out the Tokyo National Museum or the Mori Art Museum.
If museums bore you but aquatic animals don’t and you’re in Osaka, check out Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan, which used to be one of the largest public aquariums in the world when it first opened.
In Japan’s old capital and have a hankering for tea? Why not take a tea ceremony class to learn the traditional ways of making and serving tea, Japanese style?
There are numerous tourist spots throughout Japan that are indoors or under a roof, one of which is the Ghibli Museum in Mitaka, Tokyo. Fans of the movies can spend a rainy day feeling like they’ve stepped into a Ghibli movie by exploring all the museum has to offer.
If you’re in Hiroshima and in the mood for some history, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum, which documents the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, is definitely one to check off the list.
Lastly, Japan has an abundance of traditional castles that’ll shelter you from the rain while taking you back to ancient times. One of the most popular is Himeji Castle, also known as Crane Castle due to its pristine whiteness. It’s one of Japan’s first UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Sites.
Need a coffee fix while playing with cats? Got a craving for donuts and anime? Japan’s got you covered. There are numerous pet cafes, themed cafes, and other various quirky cafes (Vampire Café in Tokyo) to pique and satisfy your curiosity.
Depending on where your interest lies and where you are, there is a huge assortment of themed cafes where you can indulge both your inner nerd or geek and foodie.
If you’re looking for something more traditional, a kissaten or “tea-drinking shop” is where you’ll want to go. Don’t worry; they serve coffee too. It’s also a popular place to go to for a breakfast of thick toast, boiled eggs, ham, and coffee or tea.
Known as onsen in Japanese, this is a quintessential aspect of Japanese culture and one that both locals and tourists indulge in with great delight.
The Japanese Hot Springs Act defines an onsen as “hot water, mineral water, and water vapor or other natural gases coming up from underground.” Many hot spring facilities will state what kinds of minerals are in the hot spring water they use and different minerals offer different health benefits.
There are roughly 25,000 hot springs in Japan with around 3,000 onsen establishments using naturally hot water sources from these hot springs; so you’re pretty spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting a place to go.
In sum, don’t let the rain get you down as there are tons of things to do and see during the rainy season, including apartment hunting. If you’re looking to move to Japan, change cities, or simply want more space, Village House is a real estate organization with over 1,000 rental properties in all 47 prefectures. Check out their website for more information.