A.B. Mitford’s Tales of Old Japan has in it an enchanting story of a very particular wedding, a fox’s wedding. He tells of two young, white foxes here: “Now it happened that in a famous old family of foxes there was a beautiful young lady-fox, with such lovely fur that the fame of her jewel-like charms was spread far and wide. The young white fox, who had heard of this, was bent on making her his wife, and a meeting was arranged between them. There was not a fault to be found on either side; so the preliminaries were settled, and the wedding presents sent from the bridegroom to the bride’s house, with congratulatory speeches from the messenger, which were duly acknowledged by the person deputed to receive the gifts; the bearers, of course, received the customary fee in copper cash.
“When the ceremonies had been concluded, an auspicious day was chosen for the bride to go to her husband’s house, and she was carried off in solemn procession during a shower of rain, the sun shining all the while. After the ceremonies of drinking wine had been gone through, the bride changed her dress, and the wedding was concluded, without let or hindrance, amid singing and dancing and merry-making.”
“She was carried off in a solemn procession during a shower of rain, the sun shining all the while.” There are many names for the phenomena featured here, but most places simply call them sun showers. Scientifically speaking, they happen when wind drives stray rain droplets from one storm miles away into an area where there are no clouds or it is due to a single rain cloud passing over head while not blocking the sun’s rays. But in every culture pretty much, they are seen as a kind of mysterious phenomena, and understandably so. So many different names and phrases can be found from all over the world, with “the fox’s wedding” or “the fox’s funeral” being the most commonly used in Japan. In some Southern United States, they say sun showers happen when the Devil is beating his wife (presumably, the rain is her tears). In France, they call it a wolf’s wedding and it parts of Africa it’s a monkey’s wedding.
There are so many different references to sun showers being thought of as evidence of mysterious weddings for animals and animal spirits. Any phenomena thought of as unexplainable would be attributed to that culture’s trickster animal. For Japan, that was the fox and the rain was seen as a way for them to hide their wedding procession from prying eyes. It’s become such an ingrained part of the culture–Fox weddings in general at least–that some towns hold reenactment ceremonies and you can find references to sun showers and fox’s weddings in literature and children’s songs everywhere.
But whatever the culture, sun showers by their very nature are mysterious and so it’s only natural that supernatural explanations have become attributed to their appearance. And it’s only natural that we see these cultural expressions pop up in literature and popular culture like anime and manga. We see it pop up briefly in XXXHolic chapter 7 where the appearance of a sun shower heralds the first appearance of Syaoran and Sakura from Tsubasa. In this moment, Yuko refers to the sun shower as it’s commonly name in Japan: “the fox spirit, kitsune, takes a bride”. The combination of rain and sun becomes a powerful magical booster that allows Watanuki to perform a divination with great accuracy. The sun shower’s natural mysterious nature is transformed into something with a certain amount of supernatural power. It’s a short moment in the grander scheme of the chapter as a whole, but I think it’s important to point out these little references in order to see the much deeper meaning and mythology present in the whole of a scene.
The other place we see sun showers referenced as a point of plot is in Mushishi. It’s in episode 7 of the first season, “Cloudless Rain”, where a young woman, Teru, is followed by relentless rain wherever she goes. The episode not only uses the supernatural feel of sun showers but seems to combine it with the myth of the Ame Onna or a yokai that is thought of as a rain bringer. It’s a myth I could talk about in more detail at some point since it appears in other anime as well, but basically they were thought of as corrupted Chinese rain gods who brought rain wherever they went and would also try and steal children to make them into more Ame Onna. In Mushishi, the rain is depicted as a sun shower and given a supernatural origin by way of a troublesome mushi called an Amefurashi. The people of the village see the rain as a blessing despite the way it appears, only turning into a curse if she stays in one place too long.
In the end it’s interesting to see the kinds of explanations humans have developed over time for the phenomena that sit at the border of unexplainable. It was certainly interesting seeing all the different cultural phrases for sun showers. I hope you found this interesting too and let me know in the comments if there are any other instances of mysterious rain showers you can think of.
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