Rain rises

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It rained for the last two or three days, so someone wrote me a note saying she was looking forward to "ameagari no aozora 雨上がりの青空" ("blue sky after the rain").  I knew what she meant, but when I started to analyze the semantics of the verb, I was drawn into a vortex of uncertainty about how the simple verb "agaru 上がる", whose primary meaning is "rise; go up", could mean "stop".  That, however, is to look at the kanji shàng 上 with the eyes of a specialist in Sinitic languages, where it has these meanings:

preposition:  on; above; upon; on top of

adjective:  upper; last; previous; superior; preceding; topmost; overhead; higher; better

adverb:  up

verb:  rise; go up; board; mount; climb; apply; send in; fill; present; leave for; serve; submit; supply; first  

prefix:  over-

You get the idea.  In Chinese, shàng 上 usually has to do with motion upward, position above, etc.  It is hard to derive the idea of "stop; end" from shàng 上 in Sinitic languages.  Just looking at ameagari 雨上がり, the Sinitic specialist is tempted to interpret it as meaning "the rain rises", which would be quite mistaken.

On the other hand, in Japanese words, jō / shō / ue / kami / uwa / a(-geru), a(garu), nobo(-ru), nobo(-seru), nobo(-su) 上 has many more meanings.  Here I list only those derived from one of its verb forms, agaru 上がる:

go up; come up; rise; climb; climb up; go up in price; jump; jump up; be completed; be finished; come to an end; stop raining; die; die out; issue; accrue; be derived; take; have; eat; drink; come in; enter a house; be admitted to a school; call on; visit

As for how to explain the apparent "rain rises" in the sense of "rain stops", Linda Chance put it nicely when she wrote to me:

Don't we say "once the rain has lifted" in English? Anyway, "agaru" means "to end." Compare "oagari," the cup of tea you have to indicate you have finished eating a round of sushi.

Frank Chance volunteers:

I suppose I am qualified to answer this since my spouse says, correctly, that I am obsessed with weather reports.   I might add that the current morning drama on NHK is about a young woman who is going to become a meteorologist, so we may get some evidential support from there.

Of course rain falls in Japan, but the verb used is not kudaru 下る but furu 降る ("fall; precipitate; descend; go down") –- and note that this character can also be read as kudaru ("go down") or oriru ("get down; exit a vehicle; go down stairs") . 

One of my favorite expressions is "amefuttejikatamaru 雨降って地固まる (“rain falls, earth firms”) used when a relationship improves after a fight; in other words  as the rain settles the dust a conflict can actually firm up a relationship. [VHM:  "adversity strengthens the foundations; after a storm comes a calm; what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" –​ Proverb; from Jisho]

 When rain rises (ame ga agaru 雨が上がる) it stops raining, i.e., it goes back up into the sky, though agaru 上がる is used for ending or completion in a number of phrases, most notably dekiagaru 出来上がる ("to complete a task").  Rain can also, like any other meteorological phenomenon, yamu 止む, when it stops.

Frank also reminds us that we should include the sushiya ("sushi restaurant") vocabulary item “agari” meaning tea –- particularly tea at the end of the meal.  When you ask the sushi chef for agari they will start calculating your bill.

So it seems that agari is idiomatically highly productive.  Nathan Hopson remarks:

A few of the other interesting uses of あがり / 上がり that come immediately to mind:

お風呂上がり (from お風呂から上がる) → just out of the bath (from "get up out of the bath")
病み上がり → convalescent but still not fully recovered
上がり! (from 上がる, meaning to win a game) → "I win!"

上がり症•上がり性, i.e. (often? usually? social) anxiety disorder / anxious personality

I began this post yesterday when the rain was falling, and I'm ending it this morning as the rain is rising.

Selected readings

[Thanks to Zihan Guo]


  1. ycx said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 11:08 am

    The way "the rain rises" is phrased reminds one of the Ghibli movie 風立ちぬ "The Wind Rises", but in this case the 立 does mean "rise" both alone and in context.

  2. john burke said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 11:12 am

    Some English people use "Turn it up" to mean something like US "knock it off"," for example as a command from a teacher to an unruly class.

  3. TKMair said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 11:33 am

    What a fantastic LL posting. Integrating cross cultural linguistics and even relationship harmony advice

  4. Arthur Waldron said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 1:43 pm

    Fog lifts

  5. Waldron said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 2:09 pm


  6. david said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 2:17 pm

    When the rain lets up …

  7. Dara Connolly said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 3:52 pm

    At the end of a presentation, the speaker might say "以上です" to mean ""that's all, I've finished".

  8. chris said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 4:21 pm

    @ycx: In English when the wind rises it gets stronger. Is that the meaning intended by the Ghibli title?

    Rivers and the tide can also rise, but that's meant more literally (although a rising river typically also becomes more forceful).

    P.S. In addition to the rain "lifting" it can also "let up" in English.

  9. AntC said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 5:06 pm

    It rained for the last two or three days, …

    With you, too? New Zealand South Island is just recovering from a one-in-a-hundred years' deluge. Taiwan North/West coast has 4 days of 'Plum rains', after a year and a half of drought.

  10. Victor Mair said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 7:35 pm

    Cf. "Yǔhòu wàngyuè 雨望月" ("Gazing at the Moon after Rain", by the famous Tang Poet, Li Bai 李白 (701-762).

  11. Noell Hunt said,

    May 31, 2021 @ 10:30 pm

    以上, ijō, in the expression 以上です, ijō desu,means 'every thing said (or written, in the case of a written document) up to this point is [what I have to say/write]', and it merely marks the end of a statement, speech, written document &tc.

  12. Toby Blyth said,

    June 1, 2021 @ 12:22 am

    Is there a possible link with Chinese use of 上 for first/before/past (cg use of 上 中下 for volumes in a 3 part book) – it could have been a four character idiom 雨上青空 that got the kanbun treatment…

  13. DMT said,

    June 1, 2021 @ 4:42 am

    The title of the Ghibli film comes from Paul Valéry's poem: "Le vent se lève!… Il faut tenter de vivre!"

  14. Stig said,

    June 1, 2021 @ 5:48 am

    The Norwegian phrasal verb "holde opp" (literally "hold up") means to stop, and the related word "opphold" or "oppholdsvær" is used for weather with no precipitation – such as when the rain as stopped.

  15. david said,

    June 1, 2021 @ 8:23 am

    上 : 止 :: up : stop

  16. M said,

    June 1, 2021 @ 2:58 pm

    rain won't lift
    clouds won't drift
    gate won't close
    the railing's froze
    get your mind off summertime
    you ain't goin' nowhere

    [from a Nobel Literature Prize winner]

  17. Josh R said,

    June 3, 2021 @ 7:53 pm

    It should be pointed out that "ame agaru" is very similar in sense and usage with English "rain lifts," and that by far the most common and everyday way of saying "stops raining" is "ame (ga) yamu", with "yamu 止む" meaning "to stop, to cease."

  18. J.W. Brewer said,

    June 4, 2021 @ 12:11 pm

    FWIW here's a discussion of the English idiomatic sense of "lift" as applied to rain, which had seemed a counterintuitive metaphor or image to the person posing the question.

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