rainboots and umbrellaFor three weeks now, it has been raining on and off: Each and every day it rains a little, it stops a little, it starts again… It drives me nuts. Not that I have anything against rain. As long as I don’t have to go out then, that is. But now, no matter when and where I am going, it starts raining just when I leave my home. And even if it’s not raining very hard and there is little wind, I am soaking wet within five minutes anyway.

As it is still relatively warm, the Japanese solution to the problem is to either wear flipflops or crocs. As I shall only be seen in those after suffering a severe brain injury, I was looking for other options when yet again I had wet socks within only 10 minutes of jumping around to avoid the deepest puddles. And I found said option in rather nice rainboots. Essentially there are two types: the practical, knee-high ones in black and the barely ankle-grazing ones in pink Hello Kitty design. Luckily I found something with a slight Scottish feel in blue and green and about calf length. I must have done something right, because I have already received the most coveted of all Japanese compliments: Kawaiiii!!! (which means cute).

Unfortunately I totally failed the test for becoming an honorary Japanese when I bought a new umbrella after the old one did not survive the last typhoon. The reason is that I went shopping like a normal Western person: I wanted an umbrella small enough to fit in my handbag in case the rain is just a threat and remains one. During a break in the rain, I went to my nearest shopping centre and found a tiny umbrella, weighing less than 100 grams. I asked the shop assistant if we could open it to check the size (for emergencies it will do just fine) and then I watched her folding it again (there’s a trick to it, but she assured me that it was standard Japanese) and then I simply bought one in the brightest yellow they had. For recognition value, obviously. Perfect! I was out maybe 15 minutes altogether.

Now, a decent Japanese woman would have gone to a decent umbrella shop and spent at least 30 minutes there. The standard umbrella buying procedure for a Japanese, or generally Asian, woman is as follows: Go to the shop and peruse all the umbrellas on display. Scrutinise their outside (the part that’s on top), if necessary, open the umbrella to get a better idea. If you find one deemed suitable, definitely open the umbrella to check its inside (that part that usually does not get wet). Many umbrellas for sale here have a pattern on the inside as well, especially if it is only a parasol that many women of all ages are using in summer.

Once an umbrella is found with suitable colour and pattern both in- and outside, look for a mirror. Place yourself in front of it, the open umbrella over your shoulder and make absolutely sure that the pattern, the colour and the distance between the stretchers goes well with your hair and favourite makeup. Repeat until you are entirely satisfied.

I know how this must sound, but I am serious, I have watched several Japanese women going through the whole procedure… It seems that people here have scores of umbrellas. There is a family in my house who stores their collection outside – all eight of them for two adults and a toddler. To be fair, it’s not just women trying to go for the cute look. My neighbor has a serious looking dark green one – with an inside showing a bright blue sky with fluffy white clouds. Wishful thinking, obviously.