90% of umbrellas in Japan are plastic umbrellas

The Japanese rainy season is known as “Tsuyu” (or plum rain) because the rain happens at the time when plums are ripening.  As the plums ripen, supermarkets and shops sell green plums.  It is also the season that provokes feelings of good things from Japanese culture such as umeboshi (pickled plums) and ume-shu (plum wine).

Originally, during the Japanese rainy season, light rain would fall continuously all day, however recently it often becomes dark suddenly and rains heavily.  Looking at the water droplets that accumulate on lotus leaves and at the color of the hydrangeas makes us think that the rainy season is a good thing, especially as the rainy days become fewer.

It is believed that the abnormal weather is due to global warming, but there are no forecasters or scholars that say it is abrupt climate change.  Historically, climate change in Japan has taken place a number of times and is said to be related to the number of spots on the sun, but it’s unclear.

Japanese people don’t really like to get wet when it rains.  In foreign countries (outside Japan), many people walk in the rain without carrying umbrellas, however you don’t see this in Japan.  Instead, convenience stores and train station kiosks sell simple rain products such as plastic umbrellas and rain capes.  Convenience store clerks say that plastic umbrellas sell very well.

According to the MOTTAINAI Umbrella Project (http://mottainai-3r.jp/kasa/), annual consumption of Japanese umbrellas is 130 million umbrellas, 90 percent of which are plastic umbrellas.  The population of Japan is approximately 128 million, which means that each person is purchasing 1 or more umbrellas per year.

In the umbrella stands of corporate offices are numerous plastic umbrellas, and I must confess that there are a number of them in my own home.  Plastic umbrellas cost 500 yen and fairly reasonably priced.  (However, today’s young people say this is expensive.)

A plastic umbrella is 55 to 70 centimeters wide.  Recently colorful ones for women and umbrellas with patterns are being sold.  Besides plastic umbrellas, we often see Waterfront brand (http://www.water-front.co.jp/ ) umbrellas that are similar to plastic umbrellas for sale in convenience stores and station kiosks.  These are nearly twice as expensive at 1000 yen, however customers can select the color and shape and foldable types.  I am also a user of these umbrellas.

The number one reason that people don’t carry umbrellas in Japan is that they are misplaced or left behind.  Many people likely forget umbrellas on the train while commuting to work, and according to a search on (http://news.mynavi.jp/c_career/level1/yoko/2012/11/jr.html), umbrellas are the second most forgotten items on trains behind clothing.  Umbrellas are items that are easily forgotten and easy to lose track of.

Besides forgetting them, people also end up buying new ones when it suddenly rains.  Japanese people really dislike getting wet when it rains.

Recently, there has been a lot of talk about the downpours and heavy rain during Japan’s rainy season.  Plastic umbrellas break when the rain and wind are strong and broken umbrellas are often seen scattering the streets after storms.  It is unlikely that the annual sales of plastic umbrellas will remain at 90 percent.  A check of numerous convenience stores revealed that there are now improved versions of umbrellas for sale.  For example, there are some with more ribs that make them stronger than plastic umbrellas.  Also, the plastic seems to have become slightly thicker (possibly my imagination).  Furthermore, the price is still 500 yen.  Plastic umbrellas were introduced in 1958 (and were luxury goods at that time) and have continued to protect the Japanese who hate getting wet for 55 years. Hopefully there will be flexibility in responding to the changing climate.

 

※To view a past television program on plastic umbrellas, please visit: http://www.tbs.co.jp/gacchiri/archives/20080629/1.html

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