Spirits of Rain in Japan

I’m not sure what the technical difference a typhoon and a hurricane is. Based on the way people react to bad storms here, I feel there must be a lot of respect for weather forces. Maybe it’s because historically (and recently since Fukushima) natural disasters are the biggest threat to this tiny island country.

In the past two weeks, we’ve had two Typhoons roll through. Rain always makes me a little lazier, life a little slower. These first storms of the rainy season brought a dramatic drop in the temperature. A very refreshing change after so much sweltering heat.

Last Sunday morning, the rain was too heavy to run out to get groceries, so I used it as an excuse to eat a yuzu sorbet for breakfast. Studying design in my spare time has led me to make more of my purchases based on attractive packaging. It happens a lot in this country.

IMG_0004It looks like snow and tastes like summer.

Yuzu is a tiny yellow citrus fruit that tastes like a blend of oranges, grapefruit and lemon.

Yuzu is one of those flavors I tend to seek out while I’m here. It’s a tiny yellow citrus that tastes and smells amazing. I’d never had it before coming here, and since trying it for the first time as Ponzu, a soy-based yuzu cooking sauce, over grilled meat, I fell head over heels. Here you can find it in teas in the winter, in desserts, such as cheese cakes, mochis, cream fillings, as well as savory dishes, as in nabe, which is a Japanese winter stew. I certainly haven’t exhausted all the different ways it’s used, but to be fair, there are only 3 meals to be had every day, right? Right.


Last week, it was especially thunderous and the caretaker of my share house pointed towards the window then to his stomach. He explained that Raijin, the god of thunder in Japanese folklore, is said to eat children’s navels and abdomens, so parents warn their kids to hide their bellybuttons during storms. It’s strange, but I really love it when folklore that’s passed on to children is violent or gorey.

Children beware. The sky rumbles with this god’s hunger for bellybuttons. Photo from Wikimedia

Teru Teru Bosu

At the other end of the kitchen, a few of my housemates were making Teru Teru Bozu, which are little, tissue-paper ghosts which are believed to stop rain and bring good weather.

This cute tissue paper doll has the power to ward off bad weather


Interestingly, it stopped raining later that afternoon. I can only assume it was the ghost!

Here’s what an afternoon of storming did to the sky:

Storm Clouds Kitano

Storm Clouds Kitano2

Storm Clouds Kitano3

Storm Clouds Kitano4

Storm Clouds Kitano5

Storm Clouds Kitano6

Sadly, I think the start of the rainy season marks the end of summer, but it doesn’t mean I’ll be staying indoors!


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