Why do Japanese Carry Umbrellas?
In Japan, it is a common sight to see people carrying umbrellas even on seemingly clear and sunny days. This unique cultural phenomenon has intrigued visitors from around the world. To understand why the Japanese carry umbrellas so frequently, one must delve into the historical, social, and cultural factors that contribute to this everyday practice.
1. Historical Roots: Embracing Sun Protection
One significant reason for the ubiquity of umbrellas in Japan is rooted in the country's historical background. Dating back to the Heian period (794-1185), light umbrellas made from oiled umbrellas have been used in Japan to shield from both rain and sunlight. During this time, the nobility would carry "wagasa" umbrellas, which were elegant accessories reflecting their status.
Over time, the use of umbrellas for sun protection became more widespread, and it became a common sight during the Edo period (1603-1868). The parasol, known as "higasa," evolved into a practical accessory to protect people from sunburn and maintain a fair complexion—a beauty standard that has been deeply ingrained in Japanese culture.
2. Adapting to Weather Variations
Japan's temperate climate is characterized by fairly high humidity and frequent rainfall throughout the year. The country experiences a rainy season (tsuyu) during the months of June and July, followed by a typhoon season in late summer and early autumn. This unpredictable weather pattern makes it necessary for Japanese people to be prepared for sudden showers or intense sunlight at any given time.
By carrying umbrellas regularly, Japanese individuals can shield themselves from unexpected rainfall or the intense heat of the sun during the scorching summers. This adaptability to ever-changing weather conditions has become a part of their daily routine.
3. Politeness and Consideration for Others
Japanese society places great emphasis on harmony and consideration for others. Carrying umbrellas is seen as an act of thoughtfulness toward the people around them. Even if it's not raining heavily or if the sun isn't blazing, individuals may use umbrellas to protect themselves from the wind or the hot sun, preventing these external factors from affecting others. This consideration for fellow citizens is deeply ingrained in Japanese culture and is part of their communal mindset.
4. Fashion and Accessorizing
In Japan, fashion plays a significant role in everyday life. Umbrellas are not just functional items but also important accessories that can complement one's outfit. Many Japanese umbrella manufacturers have recognized this aspect and have started producing umbrellas in various designs and patterns, creating a sense of personal style for the users.
From traditional patterns inspired by kimono designs to modern motifs, umbrellas have become an extension of personal fashion choices. Carrying a stylish umbrella has increasingly become a way to express oneself and stand out from the crowd.
5. Health Consciousness
Another factor behind the prevalence of umbrellas in Japan is health consciousness. Japanese people prioritize protecting their skin from harmful UV rays that can cause sunburn, premature aging, or even skin cancer. Skin whitening or keeping a fair complexion has been a long-standing beauty ideal in Japan, as it is associated with youth and purity.
Carrying umbrellas serves as a preventive measure against sun damage and is often accompanied by other methods such as using sunscreen, wearing protective clothing, or covering the face with masks or visors. This health-conscious attitude extends beyond aesthetics and contributes to the understanding of why umbrellas have become an essential item for many Japanese individuals.
The Japanese practice of carrying umbrellas has its roots in history, adapting to weather variations, consideration for others, fashion, and health consciousness. From functional accessories necessary for protection against the elements to fashionable items that enhance personal style, umbrellas have become an integral part of everyday life in Japan. The sight of a sea of colorful umbrellas moving through the streets offers a glimpse into the unique blend of tradition, practicality, and aesthetics that define Japanese culture..
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