When coming to Japan there are bound to be a lot of things that catch your eye. One might be the use of umbrellas. Rain or shine it seems as though every time is a good time for an umbrella and everyone has one.
Why an umbrella and not a rain coat:
If you’re from America like me chances are the idea of using an umbrella is a bit oldfangled. Why carry an umbrella around when you could just wear a rain coat right? I thought the same thing myself at first but it wasn’t long after one rainy season when it all started to come together. Rain coats are cumbersome, hot (especially during the warm summer months here in Okinawa) and they never seem to really do the job for anything above the neck. Rain coats are also expensive and unlike an umbrella they are not one size fits all. On the other hand you have the umbrella which is affordable, available almost anywhere you go and there’s no need to look as though you had your head dunked in a toilet once you get where you’re going.
How inexpensive are we talking:
Umbrellas are incredibly inexpensive. Just today I picked one up for a whopping ¥37 although you an also find them for varying prices with the most topping off at about ¥300 for a standard clear “keep the rain out” umbrella. Of course there are other fashionable umbrellas that can be purchased at a higher price such as the Gachapin umbrella that I have in my car just waiting to save me from an unannounced rain storm but overall you won’t find yourself spending too much money on one of these.
Where can I get one:
Umbrellas are all over the place from your local shopping center, grocery store, convenience store and even those little specialty shops that sell souvenirs. No matter where you go, you’re going to have an umbrella available for purchase.
Wait a second. . . did you say umbrellas in the sun:
The umbrellas that you see people using in the summer sun are not your standard umbrella. In fact about 90% of the time they are parasols the other 10% of the time it’s someone who is actually using an umbrella meant for rain to shade them from the sun but that’s an entirely different story all together. These parasols are not like you might be familiar with from Japanese style art or photo sessions. They are lace rather than paper and are usually lined with a special material which is designed to block UV rays. (You’ll hear more about UV rays being blocked by various fabrics in other posts and videos I will make leading up to the summer.)
Although it might seem silly, the idea of carrying around a parasol in the summer that is, they are very effective in shading you from the sun and keeping you cool. Here in Okinawa the sun can be very hot and using one of these is very helpful.
How much do parasols cost:
Unfortunately parasols are not as inexpensive as the rain umbrellas. They can run anywhere from ¥500 although it’s safe to assume that you can get one or ¥1500. As I mentioned there are various styles of these which come in lace, other fabrics or even in just standard black which will effect the price. You can also find some parasols which work both to block sun and rain. These tend to be on the higher price side.
How Japan accommodates umbrella users:
One of the great things about being in Japan is that if you want to use an umbrella you’re not going to find yourself trying to figure out what to do with it once you’re in a facility and trying to accomplish a task. One of the most common sites, especially outside of small shops, is an umbrella stand. Rather than carrying your umbrella around with you when you shop you can put it in the stand and let it drip dry until you’re done.
Another device which you may find at places such as resorts and the museum allows you to put your umbrella in a rack which is locked with a key. Simply place your umbrella in your slot of choice, lock it, remove the key and be on your way. At the end of the day or stay at the facility simply use your key to unlock your umbrella and you’re done.
Something else you will find, and is probably more common, is the “Umbrella Condom”. Ok that is obviously not what this is called in actuality but what fun is life if you don’t have something to chuckle about right? Using this device is free and easy to use just stick your umbrella in, pull it towards you and BAM it’s wrapped in a plastic bag so it doesn’t track water all over the place.
To get an umbrella or not to get an umbrella:
Look umbrellas aren’t for everyone but they are a great way to stay our of the rain and even the sun. While you’re here in Japan why not give it a shot? What have you got to lose?