Death of an umbrella

Earlier this week, while the duck and I were walking to the station through the rain with a friend, protected by our awesome constellation print umbrella, the conversation steered toward the topic of umbrella prices and shopping sprees in Japan. As some of you might be aware, the duck and I love our shopping sprees to revolve around groceries (yum!). But when we were asked about our first non-food purchase in Japan it occurred to us that that had, indeed, been our 200 yen Daiso umbrella that we bought when it wasn’t even raining (because we’re pragmatic and boring like that). This umbrella has since been our faithful companion wherever we went… until yesterday that is. When, sadly, umbrella broke an arm and thus cannot fulfill its purpose anymore.

Umbrella Duck

Bye, bye, umbrella – it was nice spending our first few Tokyo weeks together – you’ll be missed! This recent loss and the resulting umbrella-less walk through the drizzle this morning inspired me to write about a few rain-related observations (that the duck and I conveniently tend to forget about… until the very moment it starts to rain):

ella, ella, eh, eh, eh

One of the first things we noticed after moving to Tokyo was that the Japanese seem to be serious about the weather forecast. By that I mean that they actually check what the weather is predicted to be like before leaving the house as opposed to just going out and hoping for the best (which happens to be the duck and my credo). Since moving here the duck and I have been checking the forecast more often, especially when trying to decide whether to embark on another grocery shopping adventure because rain sure does put a damper on the gleeful skip home. When it comes to bigger weather happenings, like approaching typhoons or sudden temperature drops, we can usually rely on our friends to inform us (‘…so that’s why the streets were so empty on our spontaneous walk’). Generally, the duck and I can get away with forgetting to check the weather forecast because our loyal pocket umbrella is was number one among the multitude of (mostly useless) items that we tend to drag along in our bag, just in case.

In Tokyo (or maybe all over Japan), even if the rain catches you by surprise, you can usually buy an umbrella at the closest Konbini, supermarket or any other place that sells a variety of goods. Having actively searched for umbrellas in other countries before, mostly to no avail, coming by one so easily is definitely not a given. Maybe there is a bigger demand for umbrellas because Tokyo is so big and lots of people are commuting using the vast train network instead of cars. Not everybody is lucky enough to live or work right next to a train station, so an umbrella is always useful for those walks home, from the station to the office or that walnut cafe that everybody’s talking about.

Even though Japan sports some of the cutest and fanciest umbrella designs, most umbrellas you’ll see used on the streets will be either black or clear – because if you’re a professional business person, your umbrella needs to reflect that! Japan is by far the most umbrella-conservative country the duck and I have been to. No other place have we seen such a great majority of classic umbrellas, either – you know, those cane like things that are less likely to break? The duck, I, and many other people, I’m sure, prefer to exchange durability for portability with pocket umbrellas – and see where this has brought us (oh, umbrella!) – but not so in Japan.
In fact, if you happen to live in a busy place and forgot to check the weather report before you left your home – having a quick glance around you will usually reveal to you whether you should rush back to fetch your umbrella. Let people with classic umbrellas be your weather forecast!

Umbrella holders are also a very common thing here; having one (be it in your home, a cute little shop, or at your favorite hairdresser’s) seems to be as self-evident as taking your shoes off at the genkan and not phoning your friend to present to her your best rendition of Macbeth’s dagger monologue while you’re on the train.
If there are no umbrella holders you might at least find one of those useful umbrella-wrapping machines, for example in front of supermarkets, to keep your shopping adventures raindrop-free (umbrella bags I have seen outside Japan, but watching one of those machines in action is just glorious).Umbrella wrapper

So, this has been a rather broad selection of umbrella-related thoughts and observations – all in memory of our beloved umbrella!
We will keep looking for another fun one, but it’s always a relief to know that we will be able to purchase an umbrella if we are ever in dire need of one!

Have a dry rest of your day – and remember to always treasure and protect your precious umbrellas.
We will go back to sadly gazing at umbrella’s broken arm now… oh, umbrella, it was too soon 😥

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