Safe Umbrellas

Safe Umbrellas

OK, let’s face it, I think the Japanese are just naturally “neater” than we are.   Take umbrellas.  My experience of umbrellas in the US is that you carry around a tattered old umbrella in the back of your car or in your briefcase, take it out when it’s raining or pouring, open it to dry in the office or the laundry room and then stuff it back where it was.   If you’re out and about, you walk around with a wet umbrella, dripping all along the way, like a damp Hansel & Gretal leaving a little trail to be followed by any thirsty birds or something.

The Japanese have a more refined way of handling these things – a system that probably wouldn’t work well in here, but seems to define them.

The Ubiquitous Clear Disposable Umbrella

The Ubiquitous Clear Disposable Umbrella

First, umbrellas are available EVERYWHERE for about $5.  This means if you forget yours, it costs less than a latte cappacinno frappe with an extra shot of something or another to get an umbrella and keep from getting wet.  In that sense, they’re somewhat disposable.  They’re also very practical.  They’re clear (so you can see where you’re going) and they all have the same white handle and trim.  Only the children’s sizes are different – they seem to come in blue, too.

Second, almost all buildings and shops have umbrellas stands outside where people actually LEAVE their umbrellas and nobody takes them!   It’s still there when you depart and you just pick it up.  Some big places (like museums), have little number tags that you can take – I guess so that you can get back your own clear umbrella with the white handle.

Third, and this is my favorite part, the BIG stores don’t have umbrella stands, they have these plastic umbrella bags that you stick your umbrella in and it covers them from bottom to top, stopping the dripping and allowing you to walk around their store without creating a mess.

So how does this translate to traveler tips:

a) almost all hotels have umbrellas and hand them out like candy on rainy days.  I guess they magically wind their way back to the hotel.

b) taking a folding umbrella actually makes it HARDER to use the handy plastic umbrella bags – the folding ones don’t fit

c) taking a folding umbrella also makes it harder to use umbrella stands in the shops.  Folding umbrella’s just don’t fit there either.

d) many experienced travelers to Japan just budget to buy a few umbrellas – one clear white one in each city where it rains.

OH, but if you DO take an umbrella – the very large, golf-sized rainbow umbrella shown below will DEFINELY attact attention.  All the Japanese ladies we met wanted one!

The Rainbow Umbrella - not available in Japan

The Rainbow Umbrella – not available in Japan

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