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What umbrellas can teach us about diversity

12 2 0

The rainy season is upon us in most parts of Japan. It is called “baiu” or “tsuyu,” which literally translates as “plum rainy season” — so-called because plum get ripe around this time of the year.

While the name is rather exotic, it is the month when we have so much rain. Because of that, June is not the ideal month for tourists to visit Japan. Two other months I strongly recommend avoiding are July and August as it is so hot and humid in Tokyo — though there are some places like Hokkaido that are spared from the rainy season and remain comfortable.

Even though this may not be the ideal month to visit Japan, tourists from overseas might find people’s behavior here rather interesting. That is, how so many people carry around umbrellas.

Visitors from the United Kingdom might not give a second thought to the number of umbrellas. But North Americans may be surprised to see this rather unique behavior and wonder what is going on.

I first noticed that this behavior of Japanese may not be universal around the world when I saw quite a few people in the United States, for example, walking in the rain without umbrellas. They seemed not to be so bothered by it. I realized that what we take for granted as a custom in the country of origin may not be common practice elsewhere.

So, I tried to explore the background of this seemingly unique behavior in Japan. First, I started with facts. According to the Global Umbrella Study results, the number of umbrellas per capita in Japan is 3.3 — the largest in the world. The global average is 2.4.

Through further research, I hit upon several........

© The Japan Times