Saturday, August 11, 2012

Beating the Heat

So for the dog days of summer, we've come down from the mountains to the southern end of Japan's largest island.

We should have stayed up there I think.

Part of this is no doubt due to me having just been back to Nevada (Humidity 16%) recently so it's a bit of a shock to the system to end up in an area that's currently running at 60+ percent humidity. Part of this is also due to the power saving restrictions in place for this area. With most of Japan's nuclear reactors out of commission, people, including my in-laws, are skimping more on the A/C and are turning back to the ways of their fore-bearers to deal with the hot, humid, sticky, and just miserable Japanese summers.

Now there's a number of ways to go about this, right now Japanese houses are doing their best with sun screens (either plastic, traditional straw mats, or green curtains grown from something vine'y), but there's other ways to deal with the hot summer sun.

Yukata fashion
You can wear a yukata, a traditional Japanese cotton summer robe. You see these things around festival time, but I've got to admit, they are comfortable and cooler than a t-shirt and shorts. There's problems with finding them in tall, fat, foreigner sizes, and of course you get a little self-conscious when wandering around in naught but a thin robe and yer drawers, but you do stay cool.

Hit the beach, if you happen to have one handy. Swimming in the sea is a very Japanese way to cool off during the summer. If you happen to have some friends along, you can bury yourself in the damp sand to cool off. The only problem with this method, besides having to find a beach, is that the Japanese have this notion that once O-bon has passed (Mid August), one should NOT go swimming in the sea. Doing so invites some nasty beasties to come and take you out to sea, or jellyfish. I've gotten two different stories. All I do know is that a few years ago, after scoffing at the notion, I went to the beach and what was packed the day before was absolutely deserted the day after and returned to hordes of crabs. Also got a lot of "Look at the weird foreigner swimming after O-bon" looks.
Apparently the Sea of Japan leans left
But if you're not scared of ghosts, you can at least get a spot.

Splish, splash
Visit a water park, not talking about the slide thingies here, Japan has a number of parks with fountains and wading pools meant to help cool you off during the summer months. True, they are meant for children, but if you happen to be chasing said child and get wet... Just be careful of the fountains, they're set to change what's spraying where and how much at different time intervals and what you THOUGHT was dry ground...

Best in the world

Chomp the watermelon, and other summer foods. Japan still has a host of summer only foods, and one of them is watermelon. We're so NOT talking those green footballs that get sold in the US. Japanese watermelons are round, and the ones in our area are sweet, really sweet, as in Beloved may be right to conclude that the farmers sneak around at night adding sugar to the soil (Actually, it's the volcanic soil combined with a 20 degree (F) difference between night and day time temps). Ours are the best in Japan and highly prized. To give you a hint how much, we brought down some watermelons for Beloved's family. For two 3L size (Say about a quarter again better than a basketball), we paid about $30. Last summer when I was in Tokyo, a local supermarket had watermelon from our part of Nagano, a 2L (Slightly bigger than a volleyball) selling for over $40 a piece, and they were almost out of them. 

I scream, you scream...

Of course, there's my favorite, get some ice cream. The GREAT thing about being at Beloved's parents' place for the dog days of summer is access to the natsumikan (Summer orange) flavored ice cream. But there's soft cream places all over Japan selling chocolate, vanilla, macha (Green tea, think President Obama), and usually a local flavor. Usually they ain't that expensive, except for the scolding one gets for breaking his diet and feeding his son an ice cream cone, but to beat the heat...

Alas, given the heat and not wanting to go out into it, there is one final way to deal with it that works great with young kids. When they take an afternoon nap, just join them.

Or better yet, don't even wait for them to start; they can get themselves into bed, right?

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