Umbrella Stories

Do you like rainy days?
I guess most people don’t really like rain. Particularly in Japan, since it rains a lot throughout the year.

It’s common to commute to work or school by public transportation. However, nearly 50% of commuters depend on bicycles to get to the station.

For that reason, umbrellas are a living necessity in Japan, and there are a variety of umbrellas and uses depending on the situation. Today, I’ll introduce some stories which are related to umbrellas.

People from overseas may think it strange to see many Japanese people walking around with parasols. However, the sun rays are too strong to go out during the daytime in summer. As a result, not only women but also men have started to use parasols to prevent heatstroke. Some schools permit students to use parasols during their commutes as well. Climate change has had a great influence on our lifestyle.

 The state of commuting on rainy days


The origin of the umbrella goes back all the way to Egypt in the form of a parasol. Umbrellas were recognized as a symbol of power and wealth, in which a servant was meant to hold an umbrella to shield their master from the sun. Ancient people used coats or hats to protect themselves from the rain for a long period of time.  As time went by, umbrellas gradually became mainstream as rain gear.

The same thing happened in Japan as well. The average person used a straw raincoat or a straw hat for daily life.

 Straw Raincoat (蓑. Mino) and Straw Hat (笠, kasa)

During the Heian period, people started to use Japanese umbrellas, or wagasa, which were made with bamboo frames and Japanese paper. This design was further improved by adding a layer of oil to the paper, which increased their durability against the weather. However, wagasa fell into decline as western fashion was adopted over kimonos and are now rarely seen in the present day.

Japanese umbrellas, Wagasa

Nowadays, many kinds of umbrellas are on the market such as portable umbrellas, parasols, and all-weather umbrellas.  In terms of the products themselves, there are a wide range of materials used. They come in all colors, shapes and sizes, so you can choose the one that meets your needs.

Surprisingly, Japan is number one in the world in umbrella usage, which is calculated to be about 130 million umbrellas being sold every year. However, umbrellas are also thought of as a disposable item in Japan. Come to think of it, umbrellas are the number one item that people often lose, but the same people rarely go and visit the lost and found to retrieve them.

Recommended Products

In this section, I’ll introduce some great companies that are well established and continue making high quality umbrellas.

First, the plastic umbrella’s pioneer: White Rose was established in 1721 as a cigarette wholesaler. They invented a raincoat by using oilpaper which is also used to wrap cigarettes. Time went by, they switched over to being a rain gear company and have stayed in business for a long time.

However, there was a turning point that changed their situation. After the second world war, they produced plastic umbrellas using vinyl fabric which they bought from the occupation forces.

The plastic umbrella was a ground-making invention at that time. People were freed from the inconvenience of the umbrella getting soaked and colors running.

White Rose was honored as a purveyor to the Imperial Household and supplied their fancy plastic umbrellas. Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Heisei used their products at the Imperial garden party to keep their faces visible on rainy days. Many politicians were fond of plastic umbrellas while giving speeches.

Plastic Umbrellas

Next, I’ll move on to Chikazawa Lace Co., which was established in 1951 in Yokohama. They have been selling luxury lace products such as handkerchiefs, bags, clothes, and accessories for decades. On top of that, their umbrellas and parasols are really exquisite pieces of work. Their products are carefully made by skilled craftsmen, so no two are the same. For women, beauty in lace and embroidery is something they long for eternally.


Lastly, here is a unique item for those who ride bicycles on rainy days. It’s called a Sasube. How does it work? Please visit Chisato’s article for your reference.


Rental umbrellas
Recently, the number of tourists has doubled since the pandemic ended. In light of these tourists, some areas have created a new type of service. One of them includes an umbrella rental service. Japan has some unpredictable weather patterns and this could be quite troublesome for tourists. A lot of tourists may not want to buy an umbrella just for one day and end up having to throw it out. For just 100 yen a day, people now have the option of renting an umbrella. The good thing is that they can be returned anywhere that offers the service. Also, they made it even easier with the creation of an application for your phone, for those who don’t always carry cash with them.

As mentioned previously about the lost and found section, these are some train station companies and supermarkets that resell unclaimed items. Since many people don’t bother to pick up their forgotten items, the lost and found becomes overstocked with them like umbrellas. This is why these items are gathered and resold at a discounted price. If you ever are in need of an umbrella, then checking out these discounted items might be useful to you.

Final Notes

Thank you for reading my article to the end. Personally, I like watching the rain  from inside my room. The sound of falling rain often gives me a relaxing feeling. Is it just me?  I feel like reading books on rainy days.
I see my umbrellas as a part of my fashion. By coordinating my clothing with my umbrella, it allows me to not only be protected from rain. but to also express the enjoyment of deciding my style of clothing for the day. If you are like me, then I’m sure that you would agree that the umbrella is an important item that we shouldn’t take for granted.

The rainy season is around the corner. Can you hear the sound of “Pitter-Patter”, or “Drip-Drip-Drop”? See you later!

One Comment on “Umbrella Stories”

  1. This was such an interesting article! I didn’t know that the umbrella had such an interesting history! thanks for sharing!!

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