When you come to Japan on a rainy day, you will usually see many Japanese people using transparent plastic umbrellas. Because of the popularity of these clear umbrellas, some tourists even buy these to feel like they are in Japan and for photographs; some even take them home as a souvenir.
But why are these plastic umbrellas so popular in Japan? Is a plastic umbrella an object that is synonymous with Japan?
First produced by White Rose (ホワイトローズ株式会社) around 60 years ago, it was sold at an expensive price and wasn’t too popular compared to other varieties available at the time.
In the 80s and 90s, the manufacturer started using imported raw materials which reduced production costs, and since then the prices of these plastic umbrellas have reduced drastically. Today, these clear umbrellas are ubiquitous in Japan.
Trend of Plastic Umbrellas Today
Easily available at convenience stores and supermarkets in Japan, you can even buy a plastic umbrella at a 100 yen shop like Daiso.
Even though Japanese people have the habit of carrying folding umbrellas in their bags almost everyday, sometimes they may forget to carry one when the forecast doesn’t mention rain. Weather forecasts are quite accurate but once in a while, there may be an error and it rains or snows suddenly. This is when most people buy a clear umbrella.
Japan has a long history of umbrellas: those made from washi (Japanese paper) to those handmade for rain, snow and sunshine. It is astounding to see the variety available in all sizes, shapes, materials, and colors. However, plastic umbrellas are one of the cheapest, and you can one in the range of 100 yen to 600 yen.
Reasons why plastic umbrellas are so popular in Japan:
1) Can be used in windy storms, heavy rain, or snow as you can see the road clearly due to its transparency.
2) Even if it’s turned upside down in the wind, easy to fix.
3) Can be bought in an emergency without spending too much and suits most consumer outfits.
Usually if people forget to bring an umbrella, they buy a plastic one and this is repeated several times in one year. So ultimately everyone has at least two to three plastic umbrellas lying around. This is great when you have friends over and it rains suddenly as you can give them one to use.
Since these are so cheap, plastic umbrellas are also often left behind in restaurants, trains, buses, and airports. Every year, the airport and train station collects tens of thousands of plastic umbrellas that are left behind, which in the end no one takes. This is the biggest drawback as these umbrellas cannot be recycled which means they aren’t environment friendly.