Tuesday, 5 December 2017

The Umbrella Situation

When it rains all the umbrellas look like flowers in bloom. Don't you think the red and yellow umbrella flowers are attractive?

But is a bed of umbrella flowers on every street corner really that likely to be seen in real life?

Shenmue pioneered weather effects and the passing of time with it's glorious Magic Weather.
To make the most out of it, pretty much all the NPCs wandering around the streets have an umbrella with them, which they'll (magically) pull out as soon as it starts to rain a bit. They also put it away when going into stores or looking at certain things, further enhancing their realistic behavior.

When it rains the streets can quickly fill with umbrealls in all sorts of colors and some kids in Shenmue II even run around with some perfect for their size. Surrounded by so many I caught myself thinking that I've never seen such a large percentage of people on the streets with umbrellas in real life and it gave me a feeling that the game might be overdoing it, ultimately hurting the realism.

We are, however, talking about a game set in Japan (and one in China) and we all know that the Japanese like to take a special approach to many things and umbrellas happen to be one of them.

A massively crowded crossing with lots and lots of umbrells. Welcome to Japan

In Japan the typical umbrella is indeed a much more common sight than in a lot of western countries. For some reason the Japanese simply have less problems carrying an umbrella with them and actually do what everyone aspires when it rains: stay dry.
In many of the Japanese towns you don't even need to be prepared for changing weather with an occasional shower from above. Just about every little store sells umbrellas and they can be as cheap as 300 Yen. They mostly come in the transparent "high visibility" kind and are not very durable at all, as the price and material already adumbrate.

When you want to enter a store it is usually required that you put away your umbrella in at the entrance area and place it in a bin with others. This can of course lead to a "sharing in need" mentality, especially with so many of them looking alike. If you value you umbrella more some higher class establishments and offices have actual umbrella lockers with individual locks.

One of many designs the umbrella lockers come in. This one is situated at Ueno Park.

For those who like a more convenient, high-tech approach, like Japan usually does, there are also some easy to use umbrella cover dispensers. These devices allow you to take your trusty rain protector inside, stick it into a machine and have it covered in a plastic tube, so no water can be spilled. If you prefer to be more enviromental friendly and just dry the umbrella you can do so in V shaped slots where you twist and twirl to get all the water off of it. Or in a more modern and compact design a cylinder with a foam insert that perfectly accomodates the indiviual wings. Some of these devices even use an air blower or vacuum to make the drying process even easier. And then there are devies that spin your umbrella like a clothes spin dryer.

Over-engineered devices for a simple, practical purpose. Only in Japan...

Please keep in mind that all this information was gathered by research out of interest in how and where the roots of Shenmue's umbrella situation lie. I am really quite thorough with my research but seeing as I'm not based in Japan and have in fact never been there I of course can't give any first hand experiences, so take everything a bit more lightely.

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