Summertime in Japan can be chaotic. Unlike other parts of the world at similar latitudes, where summers might just be a series of hot days punctuated by thunderstorms, here the weather can veer from cool and rainy, to humid and near-tropical, to clear and sunny. Iwate is no exception – we contend with a rainy season in early summer, the phenomenon of yamase, heatwaves, and even typhoons. But just like with winter, there are myriad tips and tricks for managing these unpredictable months.

The rainy season – called tsuyu in Japanese – is a sort of mini-season that resembles a scaled down monsoon. The rain might be warm or cool, plentiful or scant, but it arrives one way or another, and usually lasts until early July or end of July. It’s rarely severe, so there’s usually no need to take special precautions, but it can come as a shock if you’re more used to straightforward summer heat (like I was.) If you plan on outdoor activities in Japan in June, I’d recommend preparing for rain – whether that means rain gear or an indoor plan B. I’d also recommend getting your camera ready: there are lots of striking photo opportunities during this time.

Gray rain clouds in an other wise clear sky, reflected in a newly-planted rice field.

Hydrangeas, a symbol of tsuyu, blossom.

A double rainbow! It was even more vibrant in person.

Tsuyu is a phenomenon across most of Japan, but yamase winds are a northern specialty, so to speak. These are cool winds from the Pacific Ocean that cause unseasonably chilly temperatures and low-lying clouds to form. The effect is particularly pronounced in northern Iwate, in the coastal regions. As with tsuyu, it’s not exactly an emergency but it can be a surprise when, in midsummer, fog settles in and the temperature plummets. While the ILC candidate site is more inland and further south, and so less subject to yamase, if you travel further north in the summer months, it’s something you may encounter. Like tsuyu, it too makes for great photos as the clouds swirl around mountains and fields.

Shiino ohashi Bridge in Tanohata(a northern coastal village.) 

Roadside photos of yamase.

On the other end of the spectrum, in recent years intense heatwaves have become an issue throughout Japan. It goes without saying that air conditioners take the edge off and are installed in most places of business (and sometimes come with apartments), but at the same time, most people try to use eco- and budget-friendly alternatives too. Of these, the humble electric fan is perhaps the preeminent one. It’s a Japanese summer essential – they seem to be humming along in all sorts of places. When placed judiciously in a well-ventilated space, they can be surprisingly effective. In fact, my first place in Japan didn’t have an aircon, but by opening windows and running the fan, I didn’t even miss it. (To be clear, aircon units are popular and used quite frequently as well, I’m just pointing out an alternative that has a place in Japanese culture.)

An electric fan in a traditional-style room.

As far as portable ways to refresh, there are plenty of options but in my experience, cooling wipes are a lifesaver. These are wipes with menthol or other cooling chemicals that provide instant refreshment on hot days. Convenience stores carry types for the face, body, or both, plus various fragrances; I think it’s best to experiment to figure out what works. Applying one and then sitting in front of the electric fan or aircon after a long, hot day is simply heavenly.

Last but not at all least, typhoons are a possibility all through summer and into early fall. These do require some emergency preparation, since strong winds and rains can cause flooding, power outages, or landslides. It’s recommended that people look up hazards for their area and know their nearest evacuation shelter, just in case – as well as keeping up with weather reports, of course. City websites can also be helpful – Oshu, for example, has a page detailing the locations of various evacuation shelters in English, links to multilingual prefectural information, and more. Here is the link: Disaster Preparedness .

In spite of how wild it can get, there’s a lot to love about summers here. Summer festivals are beautiful and lively, beaches open up for the season, and it seems like there’s a fireworks display somewhere every weekend. Though some of these events have been scaled down, canceled, or postponed, it’s always possible to enjoy Iwate’s scenery or try some seasonal specialties like watermelon or cold noodles. It’s easy to make great memories, and we hope that whether you come to Iwate for a brief excursion or to live for a while, you enjoy your time and are prepared for anything.