I haven’t been back to Japan in a long, long time. As a family we used to visit my grandparents' house quite often when I was small, and I am insufferably nostalgic about it. This was one of the last old school, traditional Japanese buildings in Yokohama, one with sliding doors embellished with beautiful murals of mountains on them, and a quiet shrine room where you couldn’t hear anything but the creak of wood.
Rainy Season by Inasa Fujio sees you take control of a Japanese boy reliving a childhood memory of a rainy day in his grandparents’ home. It’s a cozy, wistful experience which brought back some wonderful memories of times past, but also reinvigorated my desire to really explore Japan now I’m much older. You see, in Rainy Season there’s this locked front gate which refuses to open no matter how hard I rattle it.
And it has really got to me. I am desperate to crack it open, quietly sneak out and go on an adventure. I want to stand among crowds at a tube station, or poke my head into a ramen stand, or simply sit on a bench and observe the bustle. I want to explore the wider world, the fictional Japan which I know doesn’t even exist here.
This isn’t to say I’m wandering around Rainy Season’s house stomping my feet and knocking vases on the floor - far from it. If anything, my interactions with its innards keep me calm and distracted. I take particular pleasure in opening sliding doors and hearing that familiar rumble as it rolls along. I like opening cabinets or thumbing through drawers, all while the muffled patter of rain rings out overhead. You learn to keep yourself occupied, and as you rifle through rooms and inspect family photos it truly feels like you're viewing things through a childlike lens again.
It’s a short game, and I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that there are moments which pull you into other worlds, or bring them to the house. You might find the key to a room, turn it, and be confronted by something or someone totally unexpected. These are figments of your imagination, those pretend scenarios you'd invent as a kid suddenly springing to life - it's ace. Plus, they're all accompanied by some Ghibli-esque tinkles of piano and lazy strings, the likes of which you'd hear in a heartwarming slice of life anime. Imagine shots of high school friends running to school, tripping and laughing. Cherry blossoms blowing across the screen as a girl turns and smiles. Wisps of steam rising from a bowl of soup. That sort of thing.
Then. But then. Once I’ve finished reminiscing, I always return to the front gate. I head outside and I give it a shake and it never opens. For some reason I think it will. Maybe just one more tug? Maybe Inasa left an Easter egg which allows me to explore the entirety of Japan? Snap out of it Ed, of course they didn’t.
Rainy Season’s this odd mixture for me. I am grateful to be able to explore this sleepy house and immerse myself in the past, but it’s only a matter of time before I’m left frustrated and restless. The real me sat in front of the monitor wants to burst through the gate and go back.
For those of you that may have missed it, Rainy Season was featured during the Japanese asobu showcase, a stream that highlighted a host of cool indie games from Japanese developers. Many of those showcased have demos, so it's well worth a watch. If you're after Rainy Season, good news! It's out now on Itch.io and Steam for £2.89.
If I don’t manage to make it back out there over the next few years, Inasa Fujio actually has something else in the works which could act as a very nice stopgap. They’re developing a game unofficially titled Inaka Project, which’ll see you playing a post officer travelling the countryside of Japan delivering letters and talking to locals. There's no official release date for this one, but you can follow its progress over on their personal website.