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It’s Like An Oven In Here!

Summer is hot in Japan. Really bloody hot. The British are apparently infamous for complaining about the heat when it is barely over 20 degrees centigrade, but when I say it’s hot, trust me on this one. Today it was cool 36 centigrade (96 Fahrenheit) but ‘feels like 41’ and this will likely continue for the next few months with little let up. Of course the worst of it is not the heat, but the humidity. Going outside is more like jumping into a Jacuzzi but without the relaxing bubbles.

The nights are awful. How anyone can survive in this heat at night time is beyond me, but thankfully in Japan there is this thing called ‘air conditioning’, which rarely exists in the wild in the UK. I learnt today that air conditioning was invented by a Mr Willis Carrier to whom we owe a great debt, it seems. Fun fact there, nothing more to add.

Having recently bought a flat in Japan, we decided to wait a little longer to save up for it and to see how long we could last without air conditioning. However in the past few months we have caved in and bought a big ol’ fancy A/C unit for the living/dining/kitchen area (known as LDK in Japan) and it was a dream.

Next was the bedroom. I opted to use a regular fan for a while but it was awkward and a little uncomfortable constantly having it blowing directly on me all night (although I’ve discovered recently on Facebook that many people like this in the UK!) Even with that constantly on blow I would wake up in the morning covered in sweat and waking up multiple times in the night as a direct result was most enjoyable. It was most uncomfortable and I personally would not recommend it. Eventually last weekend we caved and finally got one for the bedroom too. Utter bliss.

The kittens are surprisingly resilient to the heat despite their fur but I think they appreciate it too!

The Japanese Summer Festivals

The Japanese love their festivals any time of the year, but the summer festivals are probably the most enjoyable; the food is great, many people are wearing more traditional Japanese clothing (‘jimbei’ and kimonos are very common) and the firework displays are fantastic.

In the UK we usually celebrate the new year and Guy Fawkes’ Night with fireworks, but in Japan they celebrate with fireworks much more often. While the London New Year fireworks are undoubtedly impressive, I have never quite experienced fireworks on Guy Fawkes’ to the level of grandeur that one sees in Japan during their summer festivals. My memory of Guy Fawkes’ is much more personal with families and smaller local communities firing off fireworks in their gardens with a bonfire, sparklers and alcohol. In Japan there are only two similarities there in my experience: sparklers and alcohol. Lots of alcohol.

It’s difficult to describe how large the fireworks get in Japan, but I do remember distinctively that in my first year as a student in Japan, the fireworks were so big that they did not fit any photo that I took of them.

Admittedly that was partly down to my skill as a photographer at the time (not that I’m an amazing photographer now or anything) and I eventually got used to it, but either way they were bloody huge.

While I have no pictures of the surroundings, it is a little easier to describe. If you go to a firework display in Japan in the summer it will often be held next to a lake or the sea and the fireworks are fired from a boat. You’ll find a good number of food stalls that sell a variety of Japanese snack foods such as fried chicken, Frankfurt sausages, extremely long chips, yakisoba, etc. It’s very easy to pig out and one is all the better for it.

Yakisoba

The Curse of COVID-19

Japan has seen relative low numbers during this pandemic that has depressingly been affecting my home country much more. Eerily so in fact. There is what could be perceived by many as a dangerously high level of complacency from the general public to COVID-19, but there are a number of everyday habits that the Japanese have that is likely to contribute to the low level of infection and the level of action that many shops and restaurants have gone to is quite impressive. I’ll leave that for another blog, but I suppose my point was that COVID-19 is affecting the summer here in a big way.

I have not heard of any summer festivals happening this year when usually there’d be tons of them. If things are improved next year, I plan on making an effort to go to a few more of them and will report back here with a better description and photos to share with all. While the festivals may not be happening, people are still going to the beach, but nowhere in the numbers one would usually see and I myself will be abstaining until next summer (gives me a little more time to work on the beach body for the… fourth time?)

It’s easy to say that as a direct result of COVID, summer is essentially cancelled this year. It’s just a shame that no-one told that to the heat.

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