I’ve always loved the changing of the seasons and in Japan they pack a punch. The seasons here are quite frankly on steroids.
We arrived back from our summer break at the height of summer and I can only describe it as an assault on the senses.
Stepping out from the air conditioning feels like stepping into a warm bath as the heat immediately starts to rise under your skin and your clothes start to cling. Summer in the city is hot and humid.
The strange thing about the heat here is that if you look around you’d never know it was 35 degrees and sticky. No dodgy hot weather fashion choices here. Cool and classy wide leg trousers or a wafty dress topped with a smart sun hat seems to be the look. Chic and conservative and not a bead of sweat in sight.
It could be the parasols, fans, perspiration sheets and mini towels people carry with them but somehow it doesn’t seem to work as well for us. My kids manage to create a sort of 1980s wet look with their hair after a couple of turns around the playground. I’m still working on beating the Western red flush and desperation to complain about the heat after walking for five minutes up a slight incline.
With the heat, come the mosquitoes. I started off with my organic 100% natural repellent sprays like any good ‘middle class’ mother (ha) and after much furious scratching by the whole family (except my husband it seems. What’s that about!?) decided this was not going to fly (‘scuse the pun).
Then I discovered the Winnie the Pooh mosquito repelling stickers and sea creature shaped mosquito repelling wristbands for kids. Amazing! So, out go the kids laden down with bracelets, anklets and Winnie the Pooh encrusted T-shirts trailing an overwhelming scent of citronella.
It seems to be working so maybe I’ll join them. Though I’m not sure that’s going to tick the chic box. Hmmm. I’ve not seen anyone Japanese furiously scratching at their legs so I need to ask someone their secret. Perhaps it’s those light and airy trousers. Sensible.
So, if this is the feel of summer. The other overload on the senses is the sound. Namely the cicadas. I’d never seen or heard them before coming to Japan. And my goodness they’re loud. In the leafy parks it’s an almost deafening backdrop. I found it overwhelming at first but now I’m used to it, I find it strangely calming.
Cicadas are actually rather fascinating. They live underground for many years before emerging for a limited time in summer with wings to lay their eggs before they die. These things are ugly and about the size of a large cockroach. Kind of creepy. But this doesn’t stop the kids here delighting in collecting them in the parks. Carefully picking them up and inspecting them and even stroking them like you might a pet bunny. Respect for nature starts young here.
While my kids are just as curious and seem relatively unphased by them, I’m still working on trying to look cool when one lands a tad too close. Plus, as you can imagine, there are lots of dead ones around after they have fulfilled their life mission and the crunch of a dead one under foot makes me squirm every time.
Anyway, enough about bugs. Let’s talk about the summer ‘Matsuri’ or festivals which pretty much overwhelm all the senses. Amazing street food, music, alcohol and masses of people on the streets in the high heat. A recipe for the police to be out in full force surely? Nope. Not one in sight. No need. This is Japan! Just delicious smells, cold crisp drinks, cute kids in Yukata and lots of laid back fun - well, that’s if you can cope with the crowds.
Give me a couple of months and I’ll update you on Autumn. Possibly my favourite season here. Last year I think I took around 500 photos of trees. I knew the autumn colour was supposed to be spectacular here but I did not realise it would be like falling into a kind of Willy Wonka version of Autumn. More on that to come...
...but for now it’s time to get back to perfecting that 80s wet look quiff I’ve been working on with the kids hair.