“A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall”

On rainy days, it’s a chore to come to campus–for the students and me! Everyone loves music, so I try to brighten the mood a bit by remarking on just how many songs there are in English about “rain”–“Stormy Monday Blues,” “Rainy Day, Dream Away,” “Rain King,” “Red Rain,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” to  name a few. I always ask students what Japanese songs do they know about “rain,” but I never get concrete answers. Surely there must be some.

A calligrapher’s rendition of ame

Akita’s first snow fall was quite early this year–November 20th. Soon Akita will be covered in deep heavy snow. On those days I can’t help but think that people will be wishing there was rain instead!

Here’s the list of ‘rain words’ from Japan-talk.com. This is by no means an exhaustive list of rain words. A quick glance at a dictionary, and I found dozens more–a few of which I added at the bottom.


あめ ame rain
白雨 はくう hakū rain shower
急雨 きゅう kyū rain shower
俄雨 にわかあめ niwaka ame rain shower
降雨 こう rainfall
Rain by Intensity
弱雨 じゃくう jakū weak rain
小雨 こさめ kosame light rain
小降り こぶり koburi light rain
微雨 びう bi-u light rain
小糠雨 こぬかあめ konuka ame fine rain
煙雨 えんう en-u misty rain
細雨 さいう sai-u drizzle
多雨 たう ta-u heavy rain
大雨 おおあめ ōame heavy rain
強雨 きょうう kyōu severe rain
横降り よこぶり yokoburi driving rain
吹き降り ふきぶり fukiburi driving rain
篠突く雨 しのつくあめ shinotsuku ame intense rain
集中豪雨 しゅうちゅうごうう shūchū gōu severe localized downpour
Rain Combos
風雨 ふう wind and rain
雨氷 うひょう uhyō freezing rain
雨後雪 あめのちゆき ame nochi yuki rain then snow
雪交じり ゆきまじり yuki majiri snow and rain
雨混じりの雪 あめまじりのゆき ame majiri no yuki snow and rain
晴後雨 はれのちあめ hare nochi ame clear then rain
雨露 うろ uro rain and dew
Cold Rain
涼雨 りょうう ryōu cool rain
冷雨 れいう reiu chilly rain
寒雨 かんう kanu cold winter rain
氷雨 ひさめ hisame very cold rain or hail
Types of Rain
夜雨 やう ya-u night rain
梅雨前線 ばいうぜんせん baiuzensen seasonal rain
春霖 しゅんりん shun rin spring rain
春雨 しゅんう shun u gentle spring rain
緑雨 りょくう ryokū early-summer rain
五月雨 さみだれ samidare early-summer rain
秋雨 あきさめ akisame autumn rain
秋霖 しゅうりん shū rin autumn rain
凍雨 とうう tōu winter rain
十雨 じゅうう jūu refreshing rain once in ten days
恵雨 けいう keiu welcome rain
人工雨 じんこうう jinkōu artificial rain
放射能雨 ほうしゃのうう hōshanōu radioactive rain
天泣 てんきゅう tenkyū rain from a cloudless sky
Time and Rain
雨模様 あまもよう ama moyō signs of rain
雨催い あまもよい ama moyoi threat of rain
雨上り あまあがり ama agari after the rain
雨後 うご ugo after rain
雨間 あまあい ama ai break in the rain
晴一時小雨 はれいちじこさめ hare ichi ji kosame brief light rain
ながめ nagame long rain
霖雨 りんう rin-u long rain
長雨 ながめ nagame long rain
陰霖 いんりん in rin long rain
夕立 ゆうだち yūdachi sudden evening rain

from Japan-talk.com

Other Rain Words I found
雨止み あまやみ ama yami stopping of rain; lull in the rain
雨水 あまみず/ うすい ama mizu/ u-sui rain water
雨中 うちゅう u-chū in the rain
雨天 うてん u-ten rainy weather
雨気 あまけ ama ke threatening to rain; signs of rain
雨足 あめあし ame ashi a passing shower
雨声 うせい u-sei the sound of rain
雨夜 あまよ ama yo rainy evening; rainy night
雨音 雨音 ama oto sound of rain falling
雨飛 うひ u-hi coming down like rain
雨続き あまつづき ama tsuzuki long rain; rainy spell




“I like watchin’ the puddles gather rain”: RAIN as a Seasonal Word

Writing haiku brings the poet closer to nature and the natural world around them. This is the feature I enjoy most about writing haiku.

Rain, Drops, City, Streets, Drizzle

Part of displaying one’s closeness with their environment is by noticing ch-ch-ch-changes in the natural world and incorporating them into a haiku. Generally speaking, these seasonal expressions are called kigo 季語.

Haiku poets of the Bashō school maintain that each haiku must include a seasonal word (kigo 季語). For poets of English haiku who wish to follow Bashō’s tradition as closely as possible, English seasonal-words are indispensable.

As one would guess, many seasonal words relate to climate and to “rain” in particular. Here’s an article from Japan-talk.com listing 50 words/ expressions for “rain” in Japanese. There are photos interspersed with the terms. Some of the terms at the beginning of the list are not so interesting to me, but there are some good ones down towards the bottom.

This list is really useful for writing haiku because it allows people to think of rain from a perspective other than their own. I for one get in the rut of using the same words all the time. Reading this list refreshed my memory to words/expressions I have not used in a while.


How many expressions are there for rain in English?

I typed “rain” into Thesaurus.com and 35 results came back:




























cat-and-dog weather


heavy dew

liquid sunshine


sun shower

wet stuff

window washer

With all these words for rain, in both English and Japanese, how does one express No Rain?



Take four minutes and six seconds out of your day to watch this video.


Natsume Sōseki in Nippon.com

I came across an intriguing article online comparing the early 20th century Japanese author Natsume Sōseki 夏目漱石 (1867-1916) to Shakespeare. The article is “Sōseki vs. Shakespeare: Two Giants of World Literature” by Damian Flanagan and appeared on the website Nippon.com.

Image result for natsume soseki

“It’s all about the Natsumes, baby”

The term “world literature” caught my attention in the title. There is no doubt that Sōseki is highly regarded in Japan and that he is one of the most influential authors of the 20th century. But, what is his contribution to world literature? How widely known is he to non-specialists?

When I taught high school Language Arts, one of the courses was World Literature. Japanese literature was all but missing from the textbook. I made my students buy Abe Kōbō‘s 安部公房 The Woman in the Dunes (Suna no onna 砂の女) to introduce them to modern Japanese literature and to complement their reading of Albert Camus‘s LÉtranger. Any of Sōseki’s novels would have been equally (if not better) suited to have taught in class.


I refuse to refer to Sōseki as the “Shakespeare of Japan,” but I don’t mind comparing the two authors. Similar to Shakespeare, Sōseki also wrote across-genres. Just as Shakespeare had his plays and sonnets, Sōseki was both a novelist and poet.

The article neglects to mention that Sōseki was a poet of both kanshi 漢詩 (poetry in Chinese) and haiku 俳句. He entered Tokyo Imperial University at the same time as Masaoka Shiki 正岡子規, famed haiku poet of the 20th century. Shiki undoubtedly influenced Sōseki’s haiku interest. Although Shiki is the pre-eminent 20th century haiku poet, Sōseki, too, composed fine “modern” haiku.

Here is one of Sōseki’s haiku and its translation by Ueda Makoto.  Notice the haiku‘s 18-beat* pattern. Freeing oneself of the confines of the traditional 17 beat haiku was one of the marks of Shiki’s modern haiku movement. Also, there is the lack of a seasonal word (kigo 季語), which adherents of the Bashō school (including me!) agree is a mandatory element of haiku.

sumigama ni

kazura ha-iaguru


Onto a charcoal kiln

a vine keeps climbing while

being burnt to death

*I’m trying to eliminate using the word “syllable” when referring to haiku. Using the word “syllable” as a translation of on 音 has caused so much confusion, which has contributed to the deterioration of English haiku as an art.