June brings the rainy season, called Tsuyu, to Japan. The season has its beauty, but the continuous rain and humidity can be discomforting. Our guest, NHK NEWSLINE meteorologist Tsietsi Monare, came to Japan from South Africa five years ago. He offers some advice on staying healthy and avoiding flooding. He also describes how Japan’s weather and traditions are intertwined.
In the latter part of the program, Ruth introduces a documentary about Zen practice in a mountain temple. The documentary, "Seek Nothing, Just Sit," can be seen on the NHK WORLD-JAPAN website.
Living in Japan. Hello, everyone. Thanks for tuning in to our show.
I'm Stuart, and I'm Ruth.
Living in Japan is a program for international residents in Japan, whether now or in the future. We're here to share tips for making the most of your life in Japan.
Ruth, you know, we deal with the good and the bad and the ugly, and everything in between, and I have to admit. I'm absolutely terrified, because it's coming. Do you know what I'm talking about?
Tsuyu! The rainy season in Japan. It's called Tsuyu in Japanese.
Oh, yeah. But it happens every year, usually from early June to late July, depending on which part of the country you live in. It rains a lot, and we have to suffer through very high humidity. But the plants need that water to grow, and it can be lovely if you stay inside and just listen.
Well, maybe, but once it starts, it doesn't let up for over a month. Now, today's theme is "Surviving Japanese Tsuyu," the rainy season. And we've enlisted expert help: a meteorologist working for NHK WORLD-JAPAN. Whoa, that's someone we can rely on for sure. Absolutely.
HINTS FROM SENPAI
Time for Hints from Senpai. Senpai is a Japanese word for someone who has more knowledge or experience than you do.
Hmm. On every program, we invite a different senpai in for tips on how to do things well. Today, it's Tsietsi Monare. He's a meteorologist from South Africa who worked as a weather forecaster there before moving to Japan about five years ago. Now we can watch him on NHK NEWSLINE. Welcome Tsietsi-san.
Thank you very much. Thank you for inviting me. I'm actually so excited to be called senpai.
Hahaha. It's usually the other way around, is it?
Yeah, yeah. As you said, my name is Tsietsi Monare, and I grew up being fascinated and so interested in geography for as long as I can remember, really. And that's one of the reasons why I became a meteorologist and a weather forecaster. And deciding to explore the world came very natural to me, and you know, shortly after my career was sort of kick started and going well, I decided to set off and go to Japan. Oh!
I started out working in Nagasaki as an English teacher, which was sort of my gateway into Japan. And then after that, I realized, you know what? Teaching is lovely; it's fun working with children, but once again, the calling for geography, my passion just kept calling me. So that's why I joined NHK as a meteorologist and a weatherman here on NEWSLINE.
Great. And why did you select Japan? Was it because of the climate?
Yeah, the climate had a lot to do with it. The weather was great here. The lovely seasons are awesome. Really fascinating to me was the spring season, which is one of my favorite seasons throughout the year. This particular one, unfortunately, I had a bit of an accident playing football or soccer, as some people say. I hurt my knee and I spent the entire cherry blossom season indoors. And by the time I was almost like 50% healed and I went outside, the cherry blossoms were practically all gone.
Oh, no. So, I missed all of that.
Yeah. Actually, that's a lot like Japanese weather. It's kind of like "here today, gone tomorrow."
Today's theme is Surviving Japanese Tsuyu, the rainy season. Staying inside, listening to the sound of the rain might be nice, but we also have to deal with the effects of all that humidity, like the laundry won't dry easily, clothes start to smell quite soon, and mold grows in the bathroom. Oh, a list of things, don't get me started. But first of all, why do we have to deal with this Tsuyu, this rainy season every year?
Yeah, well, unfortunately, it's something that we cannot escape. It just, just like winter comes and goes, summer comes and goes. The thing is, in between those seasons, there is a period of transition. So, you'll see the change just does not happen overnight. And what happens is you get this warm air that's coming in from the South now, coming with the summer, but then there's still that lingering cool air in the North. And when those two come together, something has to happen.
And is that what is called the Baiu-Zensen, like the Baiu-front? We hear that in the news all the time. Is that what that's called?
Yes, yes. Okay. That that's exactly what it is. And it develops actually quite far off from sort of the southeast coast of China, and it stretches slowly coming into Okinawa and affecting much of mainland Japan and then eventually goes all the way out into the Pacific. But yeah, but it sort of follows the flow of warm air, and the warm air goes even further back from India with, you know, with their heat waves just before their monsoon season, so we can see how they are all linked together. All linked! I get it. We are all connected. Absolutely.
What should people do to protect their health in this season? I mean, I know I get a few different things happening with my body. I feel a bit more heavier in the chest and I get a bit more mucusy, if you like, for it. It's not very pleasant to say, but I find these things happening at this time of year.
Yeah, that is actually a very important question, especially for newcomers as well. I was one of those people at times. Surely you guys were, too. But staying hydrated is such a crucial thing because we tend to sweat a lot and we lose a lot of our moisture and water content in our bodies because of the heat, because of the humidity. And so, try to stay as hydrated as you can, you know, avoid being outdoors or do strenuous work and exercises, try to remain as cool as you can.
So air conditioning is okay? Because, right now, everything is quite expensive, electricity and stuff. But we should use the air conditioner?
Yeah. Air conditioning is acceptable. You can use that. There are many other ways as well. You can go sit under a tree if you like. You can wear sort of light material clothes that will help you in terms of shedding off the heat of your body. But you shouldn't hesitate that much to use air conditioning.
OK, and one tip I have about air conditioners in Japan is that on your remote control you'll see many buttons, right? And there was one button I could not read forever. It's called "Joshitsu." It's written in like a really difficult character, but that actually means remove humidity, take out the humidity. You can also find one called "Dorai."
That is actually fantastic, because I think it took me something like 12 months to be able to find the dry button and it was looking at me. Just like that. Yeah. So that is a very, very good tip. And I think, you know, it usually takes a couple of seasons for people to acclimatize or get used to a different weather. Weather is an everyday occurrence, but the three years actually encompasses the whole climate as a whole. Climate is more long term, so that that actually deals with you have to experience at least three or four spring or three or four autumns, three or four rainy seasons for you to actually get used to it. So that actually helps.
As you get more climatized. Sorry. Excuse the pun, maybe.
Over the years I've actually become so accustomed to the Japanese climate, so when I go back to Hawaii, where I'm from, my hair there feels unusual, it feels very dry. But then when I come back to Japan, it feels nice and moist again. So, I might not be Japanese, but maybe my body is Japanese right now, used to the Japanese climate.
So far we've talked about staying healthy during Tsuyu. Next, how can we stay comfortable?
Hmm. Wow. That that is something you can only learn by, you know, physical experience. When I came here, I had big coats. I came in the summer in Japan, but it was winter in South Africa, and I had big coats. I had sweatpants and I thought, what is happening? It's so hot. I mean, I knew, but I just don't think I wasn't that well prepared for it. So theoretically, you can learn about these things. You can hear it from people, you can read about it, but only once you experience it yourself, you will know. So, changing your attire, your clothing, that will help. There are many stores here in Japan. They make clothes accustomed to the weather in Japan, the same as if you were to go to the United States, you'll get pants that are much warmer. If you're in Canada, you can get shirts that are thicker and much warmer. So that actually is a good tip to do. And then another good tip that I have this one, particularly with Tsuyu or the rainy season is try to carry an extra pair of socks.
Oh. That, that will save you because whether you're wearing rain boots or maybe just high-top shoes or some waterproof. Sometimes, you know, a car can come by quickly or a dog can jump into a puddle of water and, you know, you could get your socks wet. Imagine having to go through a whole shift of work with cold feet and wet socks.
Yeah, that's not good.
Horrible. And it stinks as well when it dries out. Horrible. Absolutely horrible.
My little tip is because I want to keep my house clean, so the worst thing for me in Tsuyu is the mold in the house that gets on the walls. So I've actually learned from my Japanese friends to put charcoal in the house. Because the charcoal, just regular charcoal, you can sometimes see it in the refrigerators. It will take out the humidity from the air and it can control mold, so that's what I use.
All right. Because you see it in hotel rooms and so on as well, don't you? Yeah. Now in Tsuyu, we also have to be on the lookout for floods and flooding. This is horrible.
I have experienced this myself in Kyushu. Like I said, I started out teaching English in Nagasaki. And when I was down there, some of my friends who lived in places such as Sasebo, others in Kagoshima, and you remember in 2018, we had severe floods at that time, very dangerous, and they are becoming a lot more frequent these days because of the impact of climate change. The planet is getting warmer. And with the advent of warmer air, like I said earlier on, the warm air coming in from the south sort of keeps on fueling these frontal systems and it makes the rain so much more devastating and the flooding a lot more dangerous.
So what can we do to protect ourselves in heavy rains and flooding?
Well, there's quite a number of things that you can do. And the nice part is that because scientists and researchers are always out there working with these extremes, trying to find out how it's going, they are also working with governments to get people more prepared. And they have designed these really amazing landscape maps. And these will show you zones where they are prone to flooding. They will show you where you should go for in terms of evacuations, which is a very important thing.
That's very helpful. So, I would very much suggest that people go online and check flood hazard map and put the name of your city in there. And then the flood hazard map will come up on the website.
Oh, wow. That's so good to know. My apartment is along a river and the hazard map shows it's far more dangerous there than other places. So, I also need to be ready to evacuate at any moment.
And also one of the most important things that you can do for yourself is to always have a sort of Med-aid or Medi-kit with you. Like a first aid kit.
First aid kit, yeah. And put it in a place where, you know, it's easily accessible. You see it frequently. That's now one important thing because we all know that saying that when you don't need something, you only see it. But then when you, I mean, when you… yes, when you don't need it you only see it. But when you really need it, it's just missing. It's gone.
We have been talking about making it through Japan's rainy season with meteorologist Tsietsi Monare.
I've been here a long time, but it always helps to be reminded of what to do, so thank you so much for today. And I'd like to add one more recommendation. You ready? Yeah.
You should hang a Teru Teru Bozu out on your windowsill. This little white sort of like it looks like a ghost. And you hang it out in that end if you pray well, and if you're a good girl or boy, the rain might stop for you. So, using a Teru Teru Bozu is always something good.
I just walk out and stand on the veranda myself. It has the same effect. That is actually so interesting. I certainly did not know about Teru Teru Bozu, before I left South Africa to come to Japan. But when I got here and I found out about all of these traditions and these sorts of mannerisms that people have here, it reminds me so much of South Africa as well because we have something similar like that as well. In South Africa, we have a lot of lightning and thunder, and many people believe you need to cover your mirror with a blanket so that you do not invite the lightning into your house. So. Smart. Yeah, yeah. People think that reflection always sort of calls and attracts lightning. So that is quite interesting. And that's one of the most fascinating things.
So now we know how this season goes in Japan and that's all thanks to today's senpai Tsietsi Monare. Thank you so much for coming in.
Thank you very much. It's been absolutely amazing. Enjoy the rain.
And ladies and gentlemen, don't forget to switch on NHK WORLD-JAPAN and watch him in action on NHK NEWSLINE, plying his trade.
GOOD TO KNOW
All right, now it's time for us to get informed, enlightened and maybe even a little surprised. NHK WORLD-JAPAN has an array of TV programs about Japanese culture. Today, it's Ruth's turn to make a recommendation.
And I have a really good one. I chose a documentary called "Seek Nothing, Just Sit."
Oh, that sounds lovely. Yeah, that's the practice pursued at Antaiji, a Zen temple in the mountains of Hyogo Prefecture in the western part of Japan. The residents include a number of people from abroad. They clarify themselves through seated meditation, grow their own food, and do the physical labor needed to sustain the group. This program follows daily practice over the course of a year as residents search for the meaning of life. Excellent.
So, Zen, you know, has become a very international word, right? And this program, to me, kind of showed me that it's not just, you know, relaxing in a comfortable room and trying to be quiet, but it's actually a very deep practice that requires a lot of patience and a lot of effort. And it also helped me see, and I think this will help everybody, that temples are not just, you know, like a tourist site. There's… behind the scenes behind that entrance, and that a lot of people are putting in so much effort there, behind the entrance. And I thought it was just wonderful to see that side of this.
We can all use some help in finding a bit of peace of mind in these disturbing times actually, yeah. And also in seasons such as the rainy season. And over the past couple of years, most everyone has spent more time at home because of the pandemic, right? And life is not the same as it was before, right? That's true.
So you don't have to spend years on a mountain to find peace of mind. But those who do can help us find our way. Yes, yes, very much so.
You can watch the program on the NHK WORLD-JAPAN website. Go to the site, click on demand and search for "Seek Nothing, Just Sit."
Yeah, just try it. It'll change your life. I love the name, though. Isn't it great? "Seek Nothing, Just Sit."
Ruth, I guess I'm ready now for the rainy season, for Tsuyu, now that we've talked about it today. What's your favorite way to spend a rainy day?
Well, this year, I'm gonna really try to learn all those kanji that relate to disasters. Last year, I wasn't able to read Hanran in Japanese, so I'm gonna practice that. How about you?
Hanran meaning overflow? Yeah.
Well, for me, on these rainy days, I love to sit on my veranda, listen to the rain, and then just contemplate life. It's lovely.
We're looking forward to more and more listeners listening to us. If you want to hear the program again or introduce someone else to it, just head to our website. Go to the NHK WORLD-JAPAN website, click on On Demand, choose Audio, and select Living in Japan.
If you have any comments or request, you can send us a message through the site. We'd be happy to hear from you. We'll be back on July 3rd with another edition of Living in Japan. We will. Bye!