I’m often told that I’m a so-called “Ame Onna” – and I have to agree.
It has even become my nickname.
When I tell Japanese people my travel stories, I often hear them laugh, saying: “Oh, you’re an Ame Onna!”
But what is “Ame Onna”?
Ame Onna (雨女) literally means “rain woman“.
A simple and short explanation is that a rain woman attracts rain no matter where she goes.
The daily life of “Ame Onna”
Now, you know what “Ame Onna” means, but do you really understand it?
The reality looks less funny than it sounds at least for the ones affected – like me.
As I’m a splendid example of an “Ame Onna” (and I’m not proud of it ), I’ll share my experience with you and I’m sure by the end of this entry you’ll fully understand what it means to be a “rain woman”!
Rain keeps following you, but is not your friend
People who have been reading this blog for a while probably know that I’m not the luckiest when it comes to the weather while I’m traveling.
Of course, nobody can expect to have a vacation full of sunshine, but if you look at all of my past trips throughout Japan, you’ll notice that the percentage of rainy days is extremely high. It’s raining even when it’s not supposed to rain.
Let me give you a few examples:
Okinawa 2012 / 2013:
In Kyushu it was much colder than usually and there were snow and rainstorms on all three days. I had to cancel a few things because ferries didn’t run due to bad weather and strong wind / waves. Really frustrating.
On the day I left Kuyshu to go to Okinawa it was sunny in Fukuoka. The weather was so bad for all three days I stayed, but once I had to leave early in the morning, it was finally good. It’s by far not the first time things like that had happened.
It was sunny when I landed in Okinawa, but once it was time to start with my sightseeing the weather got worse and never recovered.
It was actually so bad that I had to reschedule everything!
I wanted to take the ferry to go to Kume Island, but due to the horrible weather, the ferry got cancelled. As it was around the end of the year, when all Japanese travel back to their families to spend “Shogatsu” together, almost no flights to Kume Island were available anymore. I spent half a day at Naha Airport, desperately trying to reschedule everything. I had to cancel already booked flights, hotels and rental cars and make new reservations which wasn’t easy as it was “high season“.
I had to make a million calls. I also wanted to go to Miyako Island, but with the new situation all the dates were messed up. CHAOS! I was running from one airline counter to another to make sure things got cancelled and the new dates were available.
Good weather photo credit: Janine Ippei @ Flickr
I really wish nobody so much stress during their precious vacation time!
In the end, I had to spend much more money than planned. I still fell in love with Okinawa, but there was not much to do on Kume and Miyako Island as rainstorms were going on the whole time. Luckily I was not alone. Silvia was with me and we also met Ben who lives on Kume Island.
It was still very disappointing as I barely could do any of the things I wanted due to the weather.
I will yet have to post about this vacation in detail, so you’ll see how bad it really was.
It’s not only rain, but also typhoons!
Climbing Mt. Fuji – August 2010
I’m really unlucky when it comes to Mt. Fuji in general. It seems like this beautiful mountain really hates me!
For many years, the only time when I got to see Mt. Fuji was from inside the Shinkansen.
(Insider tip: If you travel from Tokyo to Osaka you should sit on the right side, if you travel from Kyoto / Osaka to Tokyo, sit on the left side of the Shinkansen in order to see the volcano.)
In the summer of 2010 my brother and me wanted to climb the 3,776m high mountain. It was the first time for both of us and we were well-prepared. We set the date towards the end of our vacation and during the week as we were hoping that it would be less crowded then.
One night before our departure (we were in a hotel in Nagoya) I got a call from the mountain hut we had booked. They said there was currently a strong typhoon and nobody could climb the mountain and thus cancelled our reservation.
My brother and me were really disappointed. Nobody knew for how long the typhoon would stay. We were running out of time as my brother had to fly back home soon. We spent almost the whole night rearranging everything. Of course, that did cost a lot more money than planned.
Eventually we went on the last date possible.
When we were sitting in the bus to the 5th station, we couldn’t see anything outside. It was raining and foggy. Apart from us and a few Chinese people there was nobody. I guess nobody else was crazy enough to try it in that kind of weather, but we didn’t want to give up.
When we arrived at the 5th station we saw many people descending. They were completely soaked and dirty. I asked a few of them and they all confirmed that it was impossible to get to the top at the moment.
Yet my brother and me decided to try and see how far we could go.
Luckily the weather got better the higher we got and I don’t know how, but we made it to the top. Of course, we could barely see anything (and surely not the famous sunrise), but at least we made it!
You can read about our entire experience here.
Mt. Fuji – December 2010
In the same year, I tried to challenge my luck a second time.
I went to Kawaguchiko in Yamanashi Prefecture, one of the 5 Fuji Lakes. You can take beautiful photos there with the volcano in the background. I went in the winter, because people kept telling me that the weather is mostly clear due to the cold.
But guess what happened? I couldn’t see the mountain, not even a single time, although I stayed for three whole days! On the day of my departure it was suddenly sunny and I could see the mountain, so I had to reschedule yet again in order to stay a few hours longer and to take as many shots as possible.
Golden Week 2012 – Tohoku / Hokkaido:
I went to Northern Japan for Golden Week 2012. The first 2 days were beautiful, but then a typhoon hit Japan and while the rest of Japan recovered quickly, the weather stayed bad in Northern Japan. You can easily see that when you have a look at one of my posts from that time: “Mt. Osore – The Gateway to Hell”
I was really disappointed as I wanted to take beautiful cherry blossom photos, but 85% of my vacation was grey and rainy.
Golden Week 2013 – Tokyo (Mikura Island):
Even this year during Golden Week I wasn’t exactly lucky. I visited Mikurajima to swim with the dolphins there.
It’s a small island about 9h outside of Tokyo. You can get there only by an overnight ferry ride.
The weather was great when I arrived there. However, over night a typhoon-like storm came up.
I was woken up by the lady of the minshuku I stayed in, saying that the ferry wouldn’t come. Big shock! How was I supposed to get back to Tokyo? I had other things scheduled and hotel reservations that I would have to cancel. Plus there was NOTHING to do on that tiny island!
Eventually, we could take a small fishing boat (did cost a lot of extra money) that brought us to a nearby island (Miyakejima). From there we could take the ferry.
The trip in the fishing boat on the super high waves took over an hour and was the worst trip I’ve ever had. The boat was thrown around by huge waves as if it was a toy. I wasn’t sure if we’d make it safely to the other island or not.
Strong waves, rain or wind and nothing is moving anymore:
The thing with bad weather is that it’s not only raining, but often it will lead to the cancellation of ferries, trains etc.
I’ve had that many times and it’s extremely annoying. Thousands of people are waiting inside a train station where all the trains have stopped completely and nobody can get home. If you have a lot of luggage and a long way to travel, it can be really tough.
Always be a aware of that when travelling in Japan!
Just check the weather forecast and plan accordingly!
“Just check the weather forecast and plan accordingly! After all you live in Japan, right?”
WRONG! First of all, I can’t choose my vacation time freely.
And even with short trips (e.g. a long weekend trip) where I can decide spontaneously where I want to go and check if the weather will be good, I’ve had bad experiences. The weather forecast is often not very accurate. It happened many times that I decided to go somewhere for a day trip, because it was supposed to be sunny, but once I was sitting in the train, it started raining.
“It was beautiful until yesterday!”
This is a sentence I got to hear so often and it makes me furious!
I arrive somewhere and the weather is absolutely horrible to the point that I can’t even take photos. And then the locals tell me how beautiful the weather was until the day before my arrival.
DON’T FREAKING TELL ME!!!
Or I leave somewhere where it was raining for days. On the day of my departure it’s almost always sunny, but at my next destination it’s raining again.
It shows how strong my “Ame Onna” power really is.
Isn’t it great to have power over the rain?
As a “rain woman” you don’t have power over the rain. The rain has power over you!
If you wish for rain (like I do right now, because it’s so damn hot), there surely won’t be any rain.
It always only comes when you don’t want it! …
This was just a small selection of weather related things that happened to me during my countless trips through Japan.
I guess, in the end it wasn’t too bad. At least I got to tell you about all these stories now.
Without any problems, my trips would have been boring, I suppose.
“Ame Onna” – The Origins
According to some old folklore belief, a person like me was a goddess to the farmers who needed the rain so badly.
In fact, the “Ame Onna” was seen as a female spirit located on Mt. Wushan in China who is a cloud in the morning and rain in the evening.
In Japan her image is that of a woman who appears on wet evenings, licking her hands. Farmers would pray for her to come as she brings rain wherever she travels. (Sounds familiar, huh?)
You can find an illustration of the female spirit by Sekien Toriyama (1780) here.
“Ame” or “Hare” – What Kind Of Person Are You?
The male counterpart is called “Ame Otoko” (雨男) or “Rain Man“. You don’t have to be Dustin Hoffman in order to become a “Rain Man”.
For some reason, you rarely hear of “Rain Man”, though. I wonder if it’s a mystical power that mostly women posses.
How about you? Do you have the feeling that you are a “Rain Person” yourself?
Or maybe you are one of the lucky “Hare People” (晴れ女, hare onna / 晴れ男, hare otoko). Hare (晴れ) stands for clear, good weather.
P.S.: Please take this post with a grain of salt!