On June 9, the Weather Bureau officially declared the beginning of the rainy season "Tsuyu Iri" for the Kanto Plain. Sometime in July, they will announce the "Tsuyu Ake" for the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the muggy summer weather. This relatively regular weather pattern in the climate of Japan is caused by the boundary between the warm, humid high pressure system that gradually builds up over the Pacific Ocean to the southeast of Japan and the cooler, dryer air to the north and west. A front develops between these rather stable air masses with "waves" of low pressure moving along the front across Japan.
This pattern first becomes prominant in late April to early May across Okinawa and then gradually pushes farther north sloshing back and forth as it goes. This oscillating movement of the front to the north and south is what gives us brief periods of good weather during the rainy season, when the front temporarily moves away from its average position. By early June, the "Baiu Zensen" has moved to where its average position is across Kyushu and Shikoku, bringing the end of the rainy season to Okinawa. This process continues until mid July when the front breaks up over Tohoku due to the dominance of the Pacific High and a weakening of the contrast between the two air masses.
While cloudy and sometimes rainy days predominate during this period, it is still a good time to get out and enjoy the warmer weather before the oppressive heat of summer sets in. The flowers of this season shift to gayameh (a type of iris) and gajisaih (hydrangea), of which there are some excellent displays in the Tsukuba area. Probably the most famous "ayame" display in all of Japan is the Itako Ayame Festival, in the town of Itako, located at the far end of Lake Kasumigaura. Over 1 million ayame of about 500 varieties are in bloom along the banks of the Hitachi Tone and the Maegawa Rivers. Tour boats go up and down the rivers and on weekends, the traditional "Hanayome Fune", with a girl dressed up like a Japanese bride, makes its journey down the river. To get there, take route 125 until it dead ends in route 51; turn left and follow that about 10 km to the town of Itako (turning to the right). The festival last throughout the month of June.
Hydrangea festivals are also part of this season, with the biggest being in Mito at the "Howaen " park in Matsumoto Cho, northwest of the downtwon area. Over 5000 hydrangea bushes grace the park and are in bloom from mid June to early July (with the festival running from June 16 to July 7). The park is located between route 118 and the Naka River. There is also a good display of Hydrangeas in the park above the cable car going up Mt. Tsukuba (the highest point you can go by car). The flowers there come out a bit later, and are best in early July. If you can go on a (rare) clear day, the view is spectacular.
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