Photos and videos. A world of stylish and different umbrellas in Japan

Traditional umbrellas range from those of paper and bamboo to the transparent plastic available at convenience stores and other places, in this article we look at how the Japanese handle the rain and heat of the sun.

During the rainy season in Japan, an umbrella is often a daily necessity for many people when they leave their homes. The wet period usually lasts from early June to mid-July, followed by the sweltering summer heat, when a canopy becomes a common sight. In recent years, the all-weather umbrella has become increasingly popular, both for protection against rain and to avoid the scorching sun.

Some passers-by wear umbrellas to protect them from the sun.  (Jiji Press)
Some passers-by wear umbrellas to protect them from the sun. (Jiji Press)

protective umbrellas

(Show Selection), one of the Japanese companies known for its umbrellas bearing the (Waterfront) brand, is one of the many effective companies in the market, which strives to achieve continuous development in use and ease of use to great popularity in the markets. For example, there are folding sunscreens that open and close automatically, have foldable folds, or have certain features or marks that make them stand out from the rest. There are also umbrellas that are lighter in weight than a cell phone. Manufacturers also focus on the materials used in manufacturing, and use fiberglass and stainless steel to improve durability and waterproofing to prevent hands from getting wet when folded after use.

One of the videos of a folding umbrella that automatically opens and closes, with a marker that allows you to distinguish it from the rest of the umbrellas.

    The silver outer layer provides additional protection against heat and UV rays.  When folded, the wet side goes in, to prevent hands or bag from getting wet.
The silver outer layer provides additional protection against heat and UV rays. When folded, the wet side goes in, to prevent hands or bag from getting wet.

    One of the umbrellas weighs about 100 grams, less than the weight of a cell phone.
One of the umbrellas weighs about 100 grams, less than the weight of a cell phone.

Umbrellas that protect against more than 90% of UV rays are now widely available. The black interior also enhances protection from heat, as well as protection from rays that move through the ground and reflect on the user’s face.

Umbrellas were sometimes a luxury item sold mainly to women in department stores, but the lower prices made it more attractive to young men. The Department of the Environment has also recommended it in men as a way to protect against sunburn, and therefore more umbrellas are sold to men. Some fashionistas have made choices to suit different occasions, but in recent years there has also been a trend to choose foldable umbrellas with distinctive features.

Umbrellas of different shapes and colors.
Umbrellas of different shapes and colors.

Raise the mood

According to a survey conducted by the Meteorological Corporation (Weather News) in May 2022, it has been shown that people in Japan each own an average of 4.2 umbrellas, and the ratio is rising among Tokyo residents to 4.9. The most popular canopy was straight or non-folding (not plastic) at 47%, followed by plastic at 26% and foldable at 21%. 39% of men and 62% of women used the straight umbrella, and women said they chose this type because they want to look stylish or lift their mood on a rainy day.

Japanese development and innovation

There are several competing theories about when parachutes were first used in Japan, and they appear in picture roles from the Kamakura era (1185–1333). By the Muromachi era (1333-1568) they were usually made of washi paper over bamboo frames and oiled to provide waterproofing. According to the Tsugikura factory in Kyoto, which has specialized in the making and sale of traditional Japanese umbrellas since its establishment in 1690, umbrellas became popular throughout the Edo period (1603-1868), but soon lost their popularity in the late 1880s due to the advent of Western style canopies. It was more durable, lighter and cheaper, as well as better suited to Western clothing.

In 1928, the German inventor Hans Haupt’s foldable umbrella achieved worldwide success, also in Japan.

In 1958, innovation came from Japan, where the manufacturer Waitrose, based in Tokyo’s Asakusa neighborhood, manufactured the world’s first plastic umbrella. With the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japanese transparent plastic parachutes attracted worldwide attention. Once more expensive, they now sell for around 500 to 1,000 yen in combiners, but there are also more expensive umbrellas with advanced features, as well as lower-cost versions available at the 100-yen stores.

    The plastic umbrella is currently very popular among the public.  (pixata)
The plastic umbrella is currently very popular among the public. (pixata)

Japanese-style umbrellas have quietly reappeared as eye-catching accessories among the maiko and gecko girls in Kyoto, and with the greetings greeted and greeted at some traditional inns and restaurants, as well as to revamp the interiors. It is also a popular element in woodblock prints and other traditional art.

Some of the Japanese style umbrellas in the city of Kanazawa that used to protect against rain and snow monsoon in the Hokuriku region.  (pixata)Some of the Japanese style umbrellas in the city of Kanazawa that used to protect against rain and snow monsoon in the Hokuriku region. (pixata)

Loss and waste

In 2021, 250,670 missing umbrellas were delivered to police stations and other locations. Many plastic umbrellas are disposed of in such cases, leading to a waste problem. With this in mind, a special project has been launched aimed at eliminating waste through a one-off canopy system by 2030. The Natural Innovation Group, which operates the Sharing Umbrellas service, is working with eight major Japanese companies to create more places to borrow and return sunscreens, with the goal of reducing their environmental impact.

(Originally published in Japanese on June 7, 2022, translated from English. Many thanks to Shoe Selection. Banner photo: Inside a Waterfront branch)

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