At about this time each year the television news in Japan informs us that the rainy season has begun. I’m not sure how they decide this. Sometimes it is raining and they say it is not yet the rainy season and at other times it may be sunny and warm but a weather forecaster will announce with confidence that the rainy season started today. Either way, it is not good news.
I don’t find I need the help of the weather people, though. I know the rainy season has arrived when I become, for lack of a better description, constantly moist. My entire body becomes as clammy as the most unpleasant of handshakes with a fat chap. To move is to sweat. I have to avoid shirts in dark blue or grey because of their tendency to reveal the underarm sweat stains usually favoured by bushy-bearded geography teachers in the seventies. I fear that small things will begin to grow in my body’s various folds, cracks and crevices. The only time I feel comfortable is when sitting directly under an air conditioner in nothing but my underpants.
Even cold showers are of little help. They offer relief from the humidity for their duration but as soon as you step out the sweating begins again. You dry away the shower water with a towel that is in danger of developing a small colony of mushrooms, and it is instantly replaced with perspiration. All those horrible things I could laugh at others about in Britain – sweat rashes, fungal infections, being called a smelly bastard – become scarily self-applicable prospects No, weather-wise this is the least enjoyable of times in Japan. If I could, I would happily spend the entire time sitting in cool air-conditioned cafes. Sooner or later, though, I know I will have to go back outside and face the wet heat. The manager of a local cafe made that quite clear as she urged me to please put my pants back on.