Magic for a rainy day


We're now well into the Japanese season of rain - beautifully named tsuyu, or baiyu (梅雨), the months of June and July see many days of rainfall. While this is often a welcome respite from the early summer heat, it can throw a damper on your sightseeing plans. If you find yourself trapped in by an unfortunate storm, there's a better way to occupy yourself than to chant 'rain, rain, go away' at the sky - make yourself a little piece of Japanese fair-weather magic, the teru teru bouzu.
Hand-sewn teru teru bouzu decked out in lovely colours. Image from www.handful.jp

From nursery or kindergarten, Japanese children learn to make this extremely simple bit of handicraft - a bit like a Halloween ghost - that requires nothing more than some tissue paper, some string, and a marker pen. Hung up in the window, it embodies a wish for good weather tomorrow, often in anticipation of a special occasion like a school field trip or sporting event, but also just in the hope that today's rain would be gone by morning. One of the most beloved of the Japanese superstitions, the practice remains strongly represented in popular culture today.
Yui, protagonist of the hugely popular anime series 'K-On!', pictured here making a pile of teru teru bouzu. Image taken from crunchyroll.com

The exact origins of the teru teru bouzu tradition isn't well documented, but a popular version of the story involves a monk who travelled the land saving village crops from destruction by dispelling the constant rain. The name teru teru bouzu (てるてる坊主) literally translates as 'sunshine monk'. There is even a nursery rhyme, of unknown origins, with which you can sing your wishes, but beware it also includes some bribery and threats! (Lyrics and translation found here - also an in-depth and well-researched account of the possible origins of the tradition.)
A rather macabre end to a cute song. Taken from japanesemythology.wordpress.com

Whether you find yourself in need of some sunshine blessing in this season of rains, the teru teru bouzu also makes a wonderfully unique, characteristically Japanese souvenir. You can find them in cloth, knitted, or even porcelain or plastic form; as part of wall or desk decorations, accessories, mobile phone straps, pencil toppers. What better way to bring the memories of holiday sunshine home with you?
Porcelain teru teru bouzu chopstick rests! Image from rakuten.co.jp

An absolutely adorable piece of Japanese artwork, found at the reception desk of my office building on a rainy day.

All together now... 'Teru teru bouzu, ashita tenki ni shite okure'  Teru teru bouzu, please make tomorrow a sunny day!

Lynnie Lim