Rice-bran rain

Yesterday, was it? Someone said to me – the rainy season’s begun. Today, many of us here in Japan found out that, yes, it certainly had! Heavy downpourings, low, low cloud and, interspersed, a rain so light as not to be rain at all: vagrant p a r t i c l e s of water, each one with a minute, barely palpable prick for the cheek or the forearm exposed.

Looking back across Kawai Kanjiro’s patio garden from the potter’s sheds on its far side, against the black of the old Kyoto eaves, today I saw it clearly – konuka-ame, 小糠雨 rice-bran rain. When I mentioned it to a Hailstone friend, she said it might be soba-flour. The way the Japanese have evolved names for the finest categories of precipitation! Once, I made a radio programme entitled simply, RAIN. It covered many of these categories and most were illustrated with a haiku. Perhaps someone can leave a rice-bran rain haiku as a comment to this, which I could later incorporate, … but I confess I failed myself to write one. It was a dreamy day.

How then, to end? I vividly recall a renga session I once held in a Nepalese farmhouse on a miserable afternoon in ’72 with two British friends, Jon and Mick, with whom I was trekking through the Himalayas. The last verse from that will have to do:

The day erased
by hand unseen;
light rain washes
the paper clean.



6 Responses to “Rice-bran rain”

  1. Love the renga verse, Stephen. Your description of konuka-ame is great too :-)

  2. cybermaai Says:

    Not enough to slake
    My tsubo-niwa’s thirst.
    Rice-bran rain.

  3. I’ve also noticed a kind of teasing rain; a feeling that it’s raining, but it’s not really raining. A drop or two in the wind. This is the first time I’ve heard of rice-bran rain though. Also, I’ve read elsewhere that there are a number of categories for precipitation in Japanese literature. Are they used for kigo, or establishing a mood? Can you list a few?

    • shigure – winter showers (lots in Sagano; kigo)
      kitsune no yomeiri – spots of rain from a blue sky (not kigo?)
      yuudachi – late afternoon summer shower (kigo)
      natanezuyu – early spring soft, soil-wetting rain (kigo)
      That’ll have to do for now.

      • Richard Donovan Says:

        There are a remarkable number of words for types of shower:

        白雨 haku-u ‘rain shower’ (lit. ‘white rain’)
        急雨 kyuu-u ‘rain shower’ (‘sudden rain’)
        にわか雨 niwaka-ame (‘sudden rain’)
        通り雨 toori-ame ‘shower’ (‘passing rain’)
        ねずみの嫁入り nezumi no yomeiri ‘light shower’ (‘mouse’s wedding’)
        驟雨 shuu-u ‘sudden shower’
        村雨 mura-same ‘passing shower’
        一雨 hito-ame ‘shower, rainfall’
        村時雨 mura-shigure ‘autumn shower’ 春時雨 haru-shigure ‘spring shower’ 小夜時雨 sayo-shigure ‘light shower on a late-autumn (or early-winter) night’
        黒風白雨 kokufuu-haku-u ‘sudden rain shower in a dust storm’ (lit. ‘black wind, white rain’)
        天気雨 tenki-ame ‘rain shower’
        喜雨 ki-u ’welcome shower (after a drought)’
        Also note the handy verb 照りあがる teriagaru ‘become bright with sunlight after a shower’.

        Last but not least, my favourite, in the opening sentence of『伊豆の踊子』 ‘Izu no odoriko’: 雨脚 ama-ashi ‘passing shower’ (lit. ‘rain legs’). J. Martin Holman translates this as “a curtain of rain”. Is that a shower curtain, perchance?

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