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Q: Whenever it starts raining in Japan, everyone breaks out clear plastic umbrellas. What’s up with those?

A: Like so much else in Japan, the clear umbrellas are all about convenience.

Sure, you have that nice flowery umbrella you bought with a vow to keep it handy on rainy days. But it’s raining now, most unexpectedly, and the umbrella is at home — while you’re not. Of course.

So you have two options: Get wet, or swing by the nearest convenience store or 100-yen store and pick up something cheap to keep you dry. These cheapie umbrellas are the clear ones you see. When it starts raining, stores immediately spring into action, placing their umbrella stocks near entrances. Almost uniformly clear with a white handle, they sell for just a few hundred yen — a price well worth staying dry in a downpour.

Such umbrellas are usually worth about what you pay for them. They tend to develop holes, and if you fold them up while they’re at all wet, you’ll never get them unfolded. That’s why you’ll see so many of them abandoned in umbrella stands outside bars, restaurants or stores.

Besides the low, low price, another advantage to clear umbrellas is navigation. In a crowd, it pays to be able to see what’s ahead. Chances are it’s another umbrella, and you’ll need all the visibility you can get to survive in a crowd wielding umbrellas with eye-level metal spikes.

Got a question about goings-on in the Pacific? E-mail Stacy Chandler.

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