In Tokyo, as in most major cities, rainy weather becomes an issue because people are out in it all the time. We don’t go from our house to our car to our office with a minimum of outside exposure like in many suburban areas. So the Japanese have created an entire set of rules surrounding the proper use and care of umbrellas. This was illustrated to me when I went last week with a friend to the National Art Center in Roppongi on a rainy day. First of all, when approaching the museum, appropriately-garbedguards direct patrons where to go with their umbrellas. If they happen to have a small umbrella, it’s no problem because the guards are carrying little plastic bags which they hand out or assist with using. If the umbrella is a standard size, the guards direct
patrons to the little umbrella room outside the doors to the museum. Just outside of the little room is a little device in which you can insert the umbrella to shake it a little to dry it before tying it up to put away. It’s just a piece of cloth over two rods, but its function is clearly marked. The round room itself houses just umbrella stands. Each umbrella can be locked into its own stand, and patrons carry the key inside with them instead of having to carry a whole umbrella. It’s very civilized. And, of
course, it’s very clean and neat. There is no way a single drip of water is going to get on any artwork in this museum. This is Japanese foresight at its very best, in my opinion. They like things to be neat and clean and orderly, and they go to great lengths to make it so.