Friday, November 03, 2006


I learned a whole new way of relating to umbrellas. In Japan, it is normal for women to use umbrellas as parasols, everyone rides their bikes with one hand, the other holding an umbrella. Of course, if riding a bike, talking on your cell phone, and carrying your baby is too much for you to do all at the same time, you can buy an umbrella bike mount that will hold your umbrella up for you. I usually wore a bike helmet, and did not carry an umbrella, which got me many many strange looks.

Bike culture in Japan is friendly, your dates' wheels are likely to be a bike, and carrying your kid on the front of your bike is normal. (We joked that people were using the kids as bumpers, which hopefully was not happening). I saw young guys riding down the street with girls sitting sidesaddle on the bars in front of them. These 3-speeds are called "mama-charries", and everyone rides them.

Ooops, I got distracted. This post is about umbrellas and I am rambling about bikes. Well, everyone in Honshu uses umbrellas. I developed a theory that it is bad ju-ju to leave the house without your umbrella. It is too muggy for gore-tex, and the only winds seem to be the typhoons and the occassional mild spring wind. (At least this was the case in the Tokyo area.)

If you lose your umbrella, someone will hang it on a tree or a building in the place it was found, in the hopes that you will go that way again and re-claim your umbrella. I have also seen keys and other lost items hanging on trees.
It is easy to collect umbrellas in Japan, they come in so many colors, are cheap, and it is tempting to have one to match every mood.

This is inside the entrance to a food mall. The gizmo on the right bags your umbrella in a clear disposable plastic bag. Then you put it in the umbrella holder on the left. No-one steals umbrellas.


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