In “Moominpappa at Sea” by Finnish author Tove Jansson (1914-2001), Moominpappa is troubled.

Fearing he has not earned the trust of everyone in his family, he is desperate for a change of surroundings.

This results in the family leaving their familiar Moominvalley and relocating to a small island.

But once they are on the island, it rains all the time and everybody becomes depressed.

This book depicts the struggles of each family member as they try to find themselves.

The illustrations by the author include impressionistic renditions of the cold, relentless rain in fine slanting lines, which seem to represent the characters’ melancholic state of mind.

Depicting a driving rain with such diagonal lines is said to have originated with Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints such as “Ohashi Atake no Yudachi” (Sudden Shower over Shin-Ohashi Bridge and Atake) by Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858).

I wonder if Jansson was influenced by ukiyo-e. If so, the Moomins may have been connected to Japanese culture through the rain.

In our real world, the start of the “tsuyu” rainy season is late this year. We are already past the “official” start date on the old calendar.

The situation is obviously quite different from when poet Kyoshi Takahama (1874-1959) penned this piece: “This year’s start of tsuyu is chronologically correct.”

The word tsuyu is said to have derived from “tsuyukeshi” which denotes high humidity.

The combination of rain and high humidity is definitely unpleasant. But the delayed arrival of tsuyu also makes me antsy.

Back to the Moomin book. The troubled Moomin family goes on a picnic at Moominmamma’s suggestion. And it rains again, but strangely, nobody is bothered this time.

One character says to the effect: “Everything is very natural, and I have begun to think that’s just fine.”

I wonder if Jansson wanted to say that rain is also a symbol of rebirth.

—The Asahi Shimbun, June 14

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.

QOSHE - VOX POPULI: Moomintrolls find peace in the rain while Japan remains dry - The Asahi Shimbun
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VOX POPULI: Moomintrolls find peace in the rain while Japan remains dry

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14.06.2024

In “Moominpappa at Sea” by Finnish author Tove Jansson (1914-2001), Moominpappa is troubled.

Fearing he has not earned the trust of everyone in his family, he is desperate for a change of surroundings.

This results in the family leaving their familiar Moominvalley and relocating to a small island.

But once they are on the island, it rains all the time and everybody becomes depressed.

This book depicts the struggles of each family member as they try to find themselves.

The illustrations by the author include impressionistic renditions of the........

© The Asahi Shimbun


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