Japanese Who Put Up Umbrellas, Foreigners Who Don't

I ( Caterpillar ) have been wondering what to write about for our memorable first zoom, but since Tsuyu ( the Rainy Season ) had set in, I think I'll write about a question that's been caught up in my mind for some time, 'why do most Japanese put up umbrellas when it rains, while foreigners hardly don't'.

One Rainy Afternoon

Rainy Day

I was sitting in a cafe the other day, gazing idly out of the window glass, when raindrops began to fall creating spots on the streets. People passing by outside the window started to put up their umbrellas one by one, and in no time the street was filled with umbrellas.

It was such a short time until the street was covered with umbrellas, that it made me, as a contrary person, feel like searching for people WITHOUT umbrellas. And so I did. I looked carefully through the glass at the swarms of people holding umbrellas, until my eyes caught sight of a person who was not holding one. Ooh so here's someone without an umbrella, I thought and looked closer on that person, to find out that he was apparently not Japanese.

"Could it be..." I thought, and went on searching for people without umbrellas. Oooh, again the person turned out to be a foreigner! I assumed that it must be foreign people who don't put up umbrellas, and went ahead with my searching for the next 'I'm not gonna hold an umbrella' sort of person. There goes another without an umbrella ... hmm he's Japanese ... .

But after searching for nearly an hour or so, I found out that many of the people walking in the rain without umbrellas, were non-Asian foreigners as they have been expected. By that time, the streets were completely wet with patches of puddles here and there, and they too must have got wet in that rain, but still those foreign people weren't holding umbrellas over them. Why don't they?

I became curious, and when I get curious there was nothing that could stop me. So I went tapping on the keyboard of my computer as soon as I got home, to query on 'Kasa-wo ( umbrella )' and 'Sasanai ( don't hold )' and pressed the search button. As I was checking on the results, I came accross an article with a title, 'Ame-demo-Kasa-wo-Sasanai-Amerika-jin ( english title : Why not wear umbrellas? URL: http://shioz.isc.chubu.ac.jp/work/ibunka/kasa.html)'. Well, well ... Amerika-jin ( Americans ) are not the only foreigner in Japan, but I decided to check on the article anyway.

'Why Not Wear Umbrellas?'

The person who wrote this article, seems to have gone asking 7 or 8 Americans around him, "why don't you put up your umbrella when it's raining", after speculating the reasons as the following four. "Reason 1, because they think it's bothersome to carry umbrellas with them, reason 2, because they're not that conscious about getting wet in the rain, reason 3, because they forgot to bring their umbrellas since the weather is changeable, and reason 4, because they think it can't be helped to get wet when it's raining, although they don't like to get wet."

And the most common answers he got was "I didn't bring along my umbrella because it wasn't raining in the morning." And so he asked a pointed question, "Would you have brought your umbrella if you knew it would rain?" At this question, the article says that "half of them answered that they would have, leaving the other half answering that they still wouldn't have because it's troublesome".

"Does that mean that they're thinking it a drag?" I thought. As I read further, I noticed that the writer also felt the same. Ooh, and the writer pressed even harder on the question asking, "Are Americans too lazy to carry umbrellas?" Now, that's a hard one. From here I would like to quote from the original article, translating it into English.

"The bottom line for their not holding umbrellas over them, seems to be that because it's troublesome. So I pressed on them asking 'Are Americans too lazy to carry umbrellas?', and the answer to this question was as follows. 'This town is a college town with a lot of young people, and they don't like to go through much trouble ... .' We are comparatively lazy people ourselves for sure, but we'd bring along our umbrellas even though it's a pain, rather than getting wet. It seems that they think just the opposite, that it can't be helped getting wet by rain, for it's too troublesome for them to carry umbrellas. This is interesting." Well brother, I think YOU'RE interesting too.

"At any rate, if they really didin't want to get wet, they would carry an umbrella, won't they? But if they still won't carry one, maybe they don't care so much about getting wet as Japanese do. In fact, Toshihide's room mate had asked him and a couple of other guys out to play football in the rain. And though they had mud all over their clothes and faces, I remember seeing them come back to the dormitory saying 'Ahh, that was fun,' with smiles on their faces. This is just one example, but also I often see people walking in campus or in town, thinking nothing of a little rain. It can only be thought that they don't care about getting wet." Yeah, yeah, I think so too.

And the writer is gathering from his friend's words, "it cools you down when you get wet by rain, and besides the rain usually won't last long, so I think it's a drag to carry an umbrella only for such a short time", that "that means it could be said that they don't accept it as a negative experience to get wet in the rain". The writer also says in the article judging from another friend's words, "I wear rain parkers instead of using umbrellas when I have to go out in the rain," that "it seems that they think it can't be helped getting a little wet, but I see now that they use different items instead of umbrellas, to keep themselves from getting wet."

Japanese Who Don't Like To Get Wet

Of course, this whole article is a story about how it is in the U.S.A., moreover about a limited area in the country, and that doesn't mean that people living in other parts of America think the same way. Let alone, it's quite difficult to figure out what it's like in other countries, only from this article.

However, as a result of my research looking for similar articles, I found several more telling that people in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, also don't put up umbrellas even when it's raining. I guess that means that Japanese are more reluctant to get wet by rain, when compared to people from at least these countries. In other words, it may be said that Japanese dislike getting wet by rain, while foreigners ( at least from the former said countries ) don't seem to "accept it as a negative experience to get wet in the rain", as it says in the article about America.

Then why oh why, do Japanese dislike to get wet in the rain so much? Well, from a Japanese point of view, it may be all right if it's a little rain, but getting soaking wet by walking in a hard rain without putting up an umbrella, or seeing someone like that, don't seem to sound very nice ... .

It may be because your clothes don't dry off so easily in Japan, due to the difference in climate and some other conditions, but it rather seems to me as a matter of Japanese's aesthetic feeling. As there is a word such as 'Nure-Nezumi ( a wet mouse )' in Japanese, a scene of a person soaked wet with water dripping from one's hair or sleeves, is a scene miserable enough ( as they say in English, 'like a drowned mouse' ), and I guess it's thought not beautiful by the Japanese sense of beauty.

There's also a common Japanese phrase 'Kasa-no-Hana-ga-Saku ( flowers of umbrellas are blooming )', comparing umbrellas to flowers. I think it must be particular Japanese sensitivity, to find just a little bit of beauty in a depressing scenery of dull rainy weather, when colorful umbrellas are opened under the gloomy sky.

Perhaps, Japanese have different recognition and sense of feeling from foreigners, about getting wet by rain or carrying around umbrellas with them, added to this aesthetic feeling in Japanese minds, and that may be the reason why they dislike so much to get wet by rain, and tend to put up their umbrellas even in a little rain.

Through this 'Umbrella Search' of mine, I ran into a couple of negative opinions about Japanese having a tendency to put up their umbrellas right away, even in the slightest rain which you can't actually tell whether it's raining or not. But if such actions are made based on the recognition and sense of feeling particular to Japanese, couldn't it be said that such tendency is just one of the many dispositions that Japanese have as Japanese? If so, I think it should be respected as a part of Japanese culture.

Well, after all, that's how I spend a marshy afternoon during Tsuyu ( the Rainy Season ) , thinking about stupid little things that are caught in my mind, trying to make it at least a little more enjoyable.