Web Japan > NIPPONIA No.34 > Special Feature*
NIPPONIA No.34 September 15, 2005

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A piece of light purple yokan (sweet adzuki bean jelly) is cut into a cube and given rounded corners, to make it look like an ajisai flower (hydrangea). The filling is made from white bean paste. This candy will help you forget the gloomy weather of the rainy season.
Nyubai, the beginning of the rainy season
The rainy season descends on the Japanese archipelago, except for Hokkaido in the north, for about six weeks. Those weeks are sure to include the month of June. The Japanese word for "rainy season" is tsuyu, and the beginning of the season is called nyubai, or tsuyu-iri. The photo shows ajisai (hydrangeas) at Meigetsu-in Temple in Kamakura—so many have been planted there that the temple's nickname is Ajisai-dera. The flowers combine with the rain to create an especially Japanese scene for this time of year. (Photo credit: JTB Photo)

Ayu fishing season starts
Sweetfish (ayu) inhabit rivers throughout Japan, and the fishing season for them begins on June 1. Until the season ends in the fall, fishermen and women go after this delicious fish, known for its distinctive aroma. A great addition to any luxurious feast (see photo inset). The main way to catch ayu is to take advantage of the fact that they guard their riverine territory—a line is attached to a decoy fish that has a hook on it, then the decoy is sent out into the water to tempt fish to attack it. (Photo by Uchiyama Ryu)

Itoman Hare Dragon Boat Race
Men representing their villages jump into small boats and then race off, throwing up spray in their quest for first place. Behind this event, called Hare, is the wish for a big catch and safety at sea. Fishing communities in Okinawa organize local races, which become a summer festival for fishermen. The most exciting race is in the city of Itoman. It is said that Okinawa's rainy season ends when the gong rings out to announce the beginning of the festival. (Photo credit: The Mainichi Newspapers Co.)
Fishing season for ayu (sweetfish) starts (See photo).
Koromo-gae (change of clothing for the season)
Tradition has it that the beginning of June is the time to start wearing summer clothing. Winter clothes are put away for the season. The custom started as a formal event at the Imperial Court, then spread gradually to the general population. Schools and companies that have uniforms still follow this custom, with everyone beginning to wear their summer uniforms at this time.
Annual port opening festivals in Yokohama and Nagasaki
First Saturday and Sunday
Weston Festival, at Kamikochi
Walter Weston was an English missionary and alpinist. The festival honors his success in introducing the Japanese Alps to the world through his writings. It also celebrates the beginning of the summer mountaineering season. Held in Kamikochi, in Nagano Prefecture. Mountain trails lead from here to some of the best climbs in the Japanese Alps.
Water Clock Festival, at Omi Shrine, Otsu, Shiga Prefecture
In Japan, the first water clock was made about 1,300 years ago at the request of Emperor Tenchi. The festival celebrates the date of its first use, and is held on this day, called Toki no Kinen-bi (Day to Commemorate Time). The shrine festival remembers Emperor Tenchi, who established his capital in this region.
June and part of July, especially the last 3 weeks of June
Rainy season (tsuyu)
In Kyushu in the south, the rainy season lasts from around the end of May until mid-July. In the northern Tohoku region it lasts from around mid-June until the end of July.
3rd Sunday in June
Father's Day
Kurama Take-kiri-e Shiki, at Kurama-dera Temple, Kyoto Prefecture
Eight men dressed as medieval monk soldiers divide into two teams, East and West, and then compete to see which team can cut bamboo stalks the faster. The winning team is said to give their community a lucky chance to have a good harvest.
21st (approximate)
Geshi (summer solstice)
Last Saturday and Sunday in June
Mountain climbing season begins at Mount Daisetsu, at Daisetsuzan National Park, Hokkaido
In some parts of Japan, the start of the mountain climbing season may be marked with a ceremony. Before the season begins, people are expected to refrain from climbing high mountains because of the snow and cold. The season is launched in mid-April in warmer parts of the country. The final opening for the year is the last weekend in June for the Daisetsuzan group of mountains in central Hokkaido (the highest peak, Asahidake, has an elevation of 2,290 meters). Famous larger mountains such as Mount Fuji, the peaks of Kamikochi, and Daisen (Tottori Prefecture), are off-limits until June.
End of May to end of June
Suigo Itako Iris Festival, in Itako, Ibaraki Prefecture
The city of Itako is located on the lower reaches of the Tone River. This area has a network of narrow watercourses, and their banks are decorated with irises that start blooming at the end of May. Purple, yellow and white irises—about 1 million plants in 500 varieties—brave the hot humid weather of the rainy season and create picture-postcard scenery with their petals often filled with raindrops.


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