Japan has four distinct seasons. Since ancient times, people have enjoyed seasonal changes and delicacies with their 5 senses. Japanese culture has been developed with sensibility to natural beauty.
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I think summer is the most exciting time of the year. Maybe some don’t like it though.
Can you imagine what Japan’s summer is like? The humidity and temperature are high, so it might sound to you little bit scaring. However, we have many events in this lovely time such as firework displays, festivals, ceremony of opening beaches to pray for safety and business prosperity in the beach. We also enjoy summer dishes using summer veggies, shaved ice and so on.
Though Japan’s summer is sweltering hot, people have been looking for coolness and coziness in food, clothing and house. Let me show you how Japanese have loved exquisite summer and developed the wisdom of living.
Cool water flow and, pleasantly cool wind through the bamboo woods, colorful morning glories… these are one of the Japan’s summer beauty images
Insects are not always annoying creatures.
Can insect sound be a great BGM? Yes, it’s true. Daytime cicadas may sound noisy but evening ones sound calm as if they make you forget daytime heat and feel pleasant.
In The Edo period, at Doukanyama area in Tokyo, people used to get together to hear insects singing at night. Also there used to be insect stalls, people loved crickets playing refreshing sounds.
Japanese wind bells (Fūrin)
Imagine that on a hot summer day you are walking in the sun and looking for tree shade to rest, and then you hear wind bells ringing pleasantly. It would give you a refreshing feeling after walking long time.
I think most of you will be fascinated by wind bells and would like to buy one for a souvenir when you visit Japan. Wind bells are one of the great items which color Japan’s summer. They have numerous designs and colors, such as fish, summer flowers, watermelon, fireworks and so on.
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The Fūrin Market is held for several days in July every year at Kawasaki Daishi Temple in Kawasaki City. Check the web site for further details.
Address: 4-48 Daishimachi, Kawasaki Ward, Kawasaki, Kanagawa Prefecture 210-0816, Japan
Unajū is a typical summer dish which contains broiled eels with Teriyaki sauce on rice in a box.
Japanese have custom to eat eels high in nutrition to get through the heating summer on the days called “Doyo no Ushi no hi” which fall on different days each year. Why do we eat eels on the days? There are several theories about it. One of them is that it was believed “if you eat something with initial “U” like “Unagi”(eel) on Ushi no hi, you can spend summer healthy” so many restaurants began to serve Unajū on the special days and they did good business.
Noodles go swimming in a water slider made of vertically-half-cut bamboos and you catch noodles with your chopsticks, like shown in the picture below. Noodles go sometimes very quickly and it maybe hard to catch so it is very fun when you do it with your friends or family. The origin of Nagashi Sōmen is in Ibusuki City, Kagoshima and Takachiho, Miyazaki prefectures, where you can find Nagashi Sōmen restaurants.
When you visit Kyoto in summer, I recommend that you go to Kifune area for Kawadoko that is like a restaurant above river. Hearing the breathing wind and murmuring of river stream, a pint of beer you have there will be fantastic and unforgettable.
Kawadoko is one of the summer delicacies in Kyoto. In summer time restaurants and cafeterias are open above rivers where you can see beautiful scenery. Kamogawa, Kifune, Takao and Takamine areas in Kyoto are well known.
You can enjoy artistic and transparent sweets made of gelatin. Every summer you can see them in confectioner’s shop.
Yukata is something like an easy and light Kimono for summer.
In Edo period, they used to have good time in a summer evening in various ways. For instance, when the night came they used to go out in Yukata to enjoy cool temperature, especially for festivals.
Fireworks show was begun in 1733 to dedicate for the dead from plagues in Ryogoku area of Tokyo. And in Takanawa area, people used to enjoy dinner waiting for the moon to rise.
Yukata was originally referred to basic white cotton kimonos as bathrobe, in Edo period people wore it as a summer casual wear. Nowadays people are in colorful Yukata for special night out when festivals such as fireworks are held.
Japanese women prefer to keep their skin not tanned, so most women bring parasol for sun protection and low temperature. Nowadays many parasols can be used as umbrellas as well.
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ARRANGING HOME FOR SUMMER
Now in Japan most houses are rather western styled than Japanese traditional, but today many people begin to acknowledge the goodness and coolness of ancient peoples’ wisdom. So they like to have traditional living style.
In June people changes wardrobe from spring to summer mode, which is called “Koromo-gae”. As well they do the Koromo-gae for house so that they can get more wind passing through a house and stay comfort.
In a traditional house, instead of doors there are sliding doors called Fusuma and Shouji that is used as partitions for each room. They are made of paper and wood, also replaceable with Sudo (sliding doors for summer use). Sudo is one of people’s wisdom to get along with summer heat, giving you a pleasant atmosphere
Sudo is natural sliding doors made of reed, bush clover and thin strips of bamboo, which shuts out dazzling sunshine from outside while keeping visibility from inside to outside.
Sudare is a window shade made of bamboo or reed. It is normally placed outside of the window as sunshade or a partition in a room.
Pillow filled with buckwheat husks let the heat inside pillow out and allows you to sleep well through the sultry nights.
Placing a rush mat called “goza” just under a futon is another good idea for pleasant sleep. Goza is something like a carpet made of Igusa, which is material for Tatami.
In the evening, sprinkling water on the street and in the garden let dust out and the temperature down by approximately 2 degrees centigrade, which is called “Uchimizu”. If you live in a house (not in multifamily housing), you can enjoy evening coolness in your garden eating some slices of watermelon and Edamame (boiled green soybeans), hearing crickets singing and wind bell ringing. This is how to enjoy Yūsuzumi. Remember, don’t forget mosquito incense by your side!