Are Japanese umbrellas really safe to use on rainy days?

Is it really okay to use a Japanese umbrella on a rainy day?

"Is it really okay to use a Japanese umbrella on a rainy day?" We'll answer that question for you!

Japanese umbrellas are made from washi paper.
A simple question that is sometimes asked is, "Won't washi paper get torn when it gets wet?"

If you want to know more about what Japanese umbrellas are made of, check out our previous article!

  1. "What is a bangasa? A thorough explanation of its history and characteristics!"

A woman holding a Gifu Japanese umbrella in the snow

It's made from washi paper, but is that okay?

Although they are all called "Japanese umbrellas," there are many different types, including folding umbrellas, snake-eye umbrellas, and parasols.
Of these, there are two types that can be used on rainy days: the "basan" umbrella and the "janome" umbrella.

Since the umbrella part of a Japanese umbrella is covered with Japanese paper, many people worry that the Japanese paper will get wet and tear.

Are you okay!
Janome umbrellas and bangasa umbrellas have oil applied to the washi paper to make them waterproof, so you can use them without worry even in the rain!

By using high-quality oils that dry easily, such as perilla oil, linseed oil, and tung oil, the washi paper becomes water-resistant, making it suitable for use even when wet.
Apparently, raincoats worn on rainy days used to be made from oil paper.
When making umbrellas, Japanese paper is stretched over the bamboo ribs, then the paper is coated with oil and left to dry in the sun when the weather is nice.

Janome Umbrella 6 Japanese paper

Therefore, it is okay to use a folding umbrella or a snake-eye umbrella on rainy days!
(Some bangasa and janome umbrellas are made to order without oil, depending on the circumstances of use.)

Unlike folding umbrellas and snake-eye umbrellas, parasols are made from raw, unoiled washi paper, so please be careful not to get them wet in the rain or water.

Is it okay to leave the cloth on the top of a Japanese umbrella?

If you look at a folding umbrella or a snake-eye umbrella that can be used on rainy days, you will see that they have a cloth covering the top.
Sometimes I am asked, "Do I remove this cloth when I use the umbrella?"

Snake-eye umbrella raincoat

Don't take it! Use it as is!

This is because underneath the cloth is a key component of a Japanese umbrella called the "rokuro," and the washi paper is used to cover the wheel. It is an important part that protects the wheel from rain and snow.
Its name is "kappa," the same as the kappa that humans wear on rainy days.
There are many different types of raincoats depending on the craftsmen and wholesalers who make the Japanese umbrellas.
When it comes to Gifu Japanese umbrellas, it is easy to tell the difference between umbrellas with a raincoat attached and parasols without.
(Depending on the region, the parasol may have a raincoat attached.)

The string attached to the raincoat can also be used to hang it up for storage.

How much rain is okay?

You can use a folding umbrella or a snake-eye umbrella without any problems if it is raining on a daily basis.
However, it may be best to avoid using it on rainy days with strong winds.
The framework of a Japanese umbrella is made from bamboo, which is strong, but compared to the materials used in Western umbrellas, it is still much more susceptible to wind.
If the bamboo ribs break, they cannot be repaired, and even if they can be repaired, the strength will be reduced, making it difficult to use on rainy days.
If you have a snake-eye umbrella, you can lower it one level to let the wind out temporarily, but it's best to use it according to the situation, such as refraining from using it if the wind is too strong.


Before Western-style umbrellas became popular, umbrellas with a janome pattern and bangasa (bamboo-patterned umbrellas) were commonly used as rain gear.
These innovations, which were born in an era when vinyl and other materials did not yet exist, are still incorporated into the Japanese umbrella manufacturing process today.
Why not try using a Japanese umbrella when you go out on a rainy day?
You can enjoy wearing it with not only kimonos but also Western clothes.

Woman holding a Gifu Japanese umbrella

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