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Rain in Japanese Woodblock Prints

The lush islands of Japan receive abundant rainfall throughout the year, but especially in the rainy season of early summer (tsuyu) and during the typhoon storms of autumn.

Tsuyu (literally "plum rain," since plums ripen during this time) brings the water needed to flood rice fields. As such, the Japanese consider the coming of tsuyu vitally important to the well-being of the country, and traditionally have conducted rain-making rituals (amagoi) that include prayers, religious offerings to the gods, and special dances.


Distant View of Atake in Evening Shower Over the O_hashi Bridge
Distant View of Atake in Evening Shower

Hiroko_ji Boulevard, Shitaya
"Hiroko_ji Boulevard, Shitaya"

The importance of rain to Japan's pre-modern agricultural society resulted in a rich poetic lexicon of rain-related vocabulary: harusame, the soft rain of spring; haku'u, the "white rain" of a sudden shower; yñdachi, an evening downpour; kirisame, misty rain; shigure, the cold rain of late autumn or winter; and so on.

From the mid-19th century, landscape print artists attempted to capture these sentiments in their compositions, and developed a variety of specialized techniques for depicting different types of rain.