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東京は今雨が降っている。

literally: Tokyo now rain is falling.

Question: why Tokyo is [wa]-ed but not [ni]-ed?
Is it allowed to say the same idea in English manner like this?

東京に今雨は降っている。
東京では今雨は降っている。

literally: In Tokyo now rain is falling.

Or maybe rain always must be with [ga] and never with [wa]?

To my mind I thought that what is marked as [wa] is the acting object of the verb at the end of sentence. If here verb is [to fall], then to my mind [wa]-ed Tokyo must be falling.

Or maybe the key to this situation is that the real verb here is not 降る, but maybe the real verb in this sentence is 雨が降る? And therefore 雨が never should be separated from 降る and they should stand always together like "husband and wife"?

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While I'm not able to pin down your focus in the question, I guess you're having trouble understanding the function of は, in grammar and in mental model. You may have already heard about that は marks topic, which is not on the same level with subject, verb (predicate), or object. What does it actually mean?

Think of a theater, where actors play as they like on the stage. Interactions between actors can be described as sentences using grammatical relations like subject and object. When you say English sentences require a subject, it means that you can't make a sentence until you mention at least one actor. By the way, actors can't perform in the middle of nothing. They can't fight in the void like gods before the world creation. There have to be an implicit scene, a backdrop, a stage. A Japanese sentence requires a topic, that means, you must set up a scenery before you talk about who did what. What becomes topic is marked by は.

Of course, は is not always detached from actors. You can take out one of them and put the one as a background, like a king on the throne in the middle of the stage but does nothing, just signifying they're in the palace now. That makes an element is a topic and a participant at the same time. Such things are marked by appropriate particle + は: には, では, とは, からは etc. Note that が (≈ subject) and を (≈ object) are eaten by は, so when you see a bare は, you must suspect three possibilities: が + は, を + は, and the isolate は.

So,

literally: Tokyo now rain is falling.

No, it's like "Tokyo​: now rain is falling."

東京に今雨は降っている。

This is a grammatical sentence but not the most natural one. に used in this manner is archaic or poetic, not in the regular language. は put in the middle of sentence could have various special connotations, such as saying "not snowing but raining" or "raining it is".

東京では今雨は降っている。

The default interpretation of this sentence is, I guess, "It is indeed raining in Tokyo".

If I'd like to tell the meaning in the English-compatible way, I'd say:

東京では今雨が降っている。

  • Huge thanks for [Tokyo: ...] pattern. Now I understand that Tokyo is [wa]-ed to create: [It's Tokyo. It's raining.] or [Tokyo, ... it's raining.] So, [wa] is used to create some poetic sence, maybe even some pause like a comma does. – Tchibi-kun Jun 27 at 10:40
  • @Tchibi-kun は is a device so basic in the Japanese grammar that usually doesn't create additional nuance when it comes first. What I wanted to say is that は could have additional sense when it's not the first element, including poetic. – broccoli forest Jun 28 at 0:38
  • @Tchibi-kun This japanese.stackexchange.com/q/22/7810 is the most general description of the particle は on this site. – broccoli forest Jun 28 at 0:41
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Or maybe rain always must be with [ga] and never with [wa]?

If you want to simply say "it's raining", you have to use が. But you can use 雨は in the following situations:

  • You really want a contrastive meaning, e.g. 雨は降っているが雪は降っていない.
  • You refer to a certain rainfall episode that has been already brought into the universe of discourse, e.g., 雨は止んでいます ("The rain has stopped").

From here, let's just use が and compare these sentences:

  1. 東京雨が降っている。
  2. 東京雨が降っている。
  3. 東京には雨が降っている。
  4. 東京雨が降っている。
  5. 東京では雨が降っている。

There sentences are all correct. The subject is 雨, not 東京. 東京 is a topic when there is は (1, 3, 5). Here, I think に is a direction/destination marker rather than a location marker which can be used with いる/ある/etc (i.e., rain is falling towards the land of Tokyo). で is a location marker that marks the place where an action takes place. は is a topic marker, which can directly follow に, で, から, etc.

には can often be "contracted" to は. For example you can say both 誕生日はパーティをします, 誕生日にはパーティーをします and 誕生日にパーティーをします, but when there is は, 誕生日 is topicalized.

Related:

  • Thanking to your examples I understood, that [wa] itself does not create any pointing meaning, and even can be added to [ni]/[de] meaning-creating modifiers. For my brain it was just hard to understand if [Tokyo-wa] is not [at Tokyo] and not [in Tokyo] then what the hell is it? And thanking to Broccoli's answer I realised, that [wa] is like making second sentence. [東京は雨が降っている。] = [東京だ。雨が降っている。] That was the difficultiy I could not get when I saw [wa] in this example. And now I know, that the most natural way to say it is [Tokyo-dewa ...] = [it's raining in Tokyo] – Tchibi-kun Jun 27 at 10:50
  • @Tchibi-kun If you're not familiar with topics, this article should help: eastasiastudent.net/study/topic-prominent は is often thought of as "concerning ~" or "as for ~". Note that this is not a poetic device but a completely ordinary way of making sentences in Japanese. So 東京で雨が降っている is closer to plain "It's raining in Tokyo", whereas 東京は雨が降っている is closer to "In Tokyo, it's raining" or "As for Tokyo, it's raining". You should be able to see how Tokyo is "topicalized" with this word order. – naruto Jun 27 at 22:41
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    Super usefull article. And it additionally confirmed what I learned today from Broccoli's answer, that [wa] creates in-front sentances of [It is X-[wa]], that is [bla-bla-bla]. Yes, it is not poetic to your brain, cause you was raised with that. But for me, this tools is what poets use. Anyway, today, I improved my understanding of [wa] to next level. And I pray that someday I will get the feeling between [wa] and [ga]. I know difference, but I just do not feel it yet. Thank's god, today I started to feel what [wa] is about and finally I got why [wa] can be added to [ni]/[de] etc. – Tchibi-kun Jun 27 at 22:54

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