Photo/IllutrationA pool remains empty at the Toshimaen amusement park in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward on July 16. (Shiro Nishihata)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

A record-setting dark spell has been cast over the Land of the Rising Sun.

The persistent and prolonged rainy season, particularly in the capital region, has hurt seasonal businesses, raised the prices of certain vegetables and disrupted daily chores.

“We’ve never had it so bad,” an employee at Toshimaen, an amusement park in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward, said about the current attendance of its pool.

The park opened its popular pool facility on June 29. But only 2,547 visitors had been counted as of July 15, a decline of 95 percent from the same period last year, when the nation seared under a record heatwave.

The park on July 20 is scheduled to start a Friday-weekend-only, nighttime pool event coined “No-bake summer.” The nocturnal event is targeted mainly at bathers “concerned about UV rays.”

But under current weather conditions, pool-goers do not need to worry about sunburn, even during the day.

“I don’t know how many people would come to the pool at night when it’s this cold during the daytime,” the Toshimaen employee said uneasily.

This year’s rainy season has caused a record lack of sunlight in the Kanto region.

Central Tokyo received three hours or less of sunlight for 20 consecutive days until July 16, the longest streak since records began in 1961, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

The previous record was 17 straight days set in 1988, when the growth of crops in the Tohoku, Kanto and Hokkaido regions was seriously damaged.

In fact, sunlight in July in central Tokyo appeared for a total of only 5.6 hours as of July 16, or 4.8 percent of the sunshine for the same period in 2018.

Other cities in the Kanto region have also been left largely in the dark.

Maebashi has received a total of 5.2 hours of sunlight over the same period, or 4.9 percent of the time in 2018, while Utsunomiya has been blessed with 6.6 hours of sun, 8.4 percent of the sunshine in the previous year’s period.

Yuigahama Beach in Kamakura, Kanagawa Prefecture, announced the formal start of sea-bathing season on July 1. So far, visitor numbers have been spotty.

“At a glance, the turnout is less than half of last year,” an employee of the city’s tourism division said on July 15, this year’s Marine Day.

On the same holiday last year, countless families and youths flocked to the popular beach facing Sagami Bay.

The dark skies have led to rising prices of produce, particularly summer vegetables such as cucumbers and eggplants.

“Leafy greens like mizuna and bok choi, as well as bitter gourd and okra, are pale in color because of the lack of sunlight,” a grocery store owner in Tokyo’s Nerima Ward said.

The damp weather, which has prevented people from hanging their laundry outdoors, is reflected in sales trends of household electric appliances.

Bic Camera, an electronics emporium, said sales of dehumidifiers and futon driers have more than doubled compared with last year.

The mega-chain’s sales of a drum-type washing machine with a clothes-drying function have increased by 50 percent.

But electric power consumption has been down.

In July last year, daytime electricity usage on weekdays hovered between 40 million kilowatts to 50 million kilowatts.

This month, usage has stayed just above the 30-million-kilowatt range, according to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, a reflection of decreased air conditioner use in the Kanto region.

With the sun largely blotted out, temperatures have remained low in the Kanto region.

On almost every day in July 2018, central Tokyo recorded highs exceeding 30 degrees.

Between July 1 and July 16 this year, the mercury peaked at 29.1 degrees.

Kumagaya, a northern city of Saitama Prefecture, baked under 41.1-degree heat on July 23, 2018, the highest temperature ever recorded in Japan.

This year, Kumagaya residents have had it much easier, as the highest temperature in July so far has been 29.4 degrees.

The cooler days have also made work easier for the Tokyo Fire Department.

Within its jurisdiction, the department took 274 people suspected of suffering heatstroke to hospitals from June 1 to July 15.

In the same period last year, 1,405 people were transported to hospitals for heat-related illnesses.

But the department is cautioning residents not to let their guards down.

“The weather can get muggy, just like that,” a fire department official said. “Then the risk of suffering heatstroke will increase because your body hasn’t adjusted to the heat.”

The official’s advice should be heeded in the days ahead.

The Japan Meteorological Agency predicts temperatures will rise from early next week in vast areas stretching from western to eastern Japan, as a strengthened high-pressure system in the Pacific Ocean will bring out the summer heat.

The agency is expected to declare the end of the rainy season in many places around the same time.

Temperatures in August are expected to be the same as they are on average, the agency said.