Thursday, August 12, 2010

10 best things about summer in Japan

Okay, this is a bit country-specific, but since I'm right in the middle of a sweltering summer, without wife and kids, here in Japan, I thought I'd take some stock. It's a great place to spend summer, if it weren't for the damnned heat.

10. Festivals. Right. "Matsuri" are everywhere, yet these "parties in the street" can be further broken down, and in fact account for quite a bit of Japanese summer goodness. For instance:

9. Fireworks shows. These things are amazing. Go on for what seems like hours. One thing they could lose? The "sponsorship announcements" before each blast.

8. Girls wearing Yukata. The cotton "kimono" is of course less formal than its silk cousin. Fun. Easy on the eyes, too.

7. High school baseball. Right, seems strange, right? Imagine "March Madness" in August. In Osaka. With young high school guys going for it, giving their all, then crying at the end. Crack open an Asahi and turn on the Koshien tournament.

6. Iced Coffee. I swear. This is, aside from beer (and water with a lemon squeeze) the best summer drink around. In Japan you can buy it in cans ("Georgia" or "Boss") cartons, plastic bottles. But perhaps the best way is prepared by your favorite Kissaten (coffee shop) master. In Japan they have "gum syrup" to pour into your iced coffee so you don't have the problem of undissolved sugar crystals in the bottom of your glass. Actually, I kind of like that part. Another best part? The sound of the ice tinking in your glass as you take the first sip...

5. And now that were half way home, and have broken into the food/beverage category, I'd like to submit: SUIKA BARS! Suika (Watermelon) is of course a summertime treat. Leave it to the geniuses at Lotte to come up with a frozen ice candy version, which includes chocolate seeds! Definitely top 5. Maybe higher.

4. It will end. Right. One of the best things about experiencing the hot, swealtering humidity of Japanese summers is remembering that October is now just around the corner, with blue skies, cool air, colored leaves and feasts of the harvest. It's coming. I promise.

3. School's out! Well, yeah, for just about a month. And the schools give mountains of homework. Then you've got the semi-mandatory (read: "socially enforced") Radio Calisthenics starting at 6:30 every morning in the local parks. So yes, there's room for improvement, but summer vacation is still SUMMER VACATION!7

2. Music Festivals: Fuji Rock, Kodo, etc, etc, etc. Get sweaty grooving with strangers.

1. Did I miss anything? Kingyo sukui (goldfish scooping)? So-men (child thin wheat noodles in sauce)? Fu-rin (little wind chimes to make the breezes seem breezier)? Summer vegetables? Those puffy, summery cumulus clouds? Cicada catching? Swimming in the pool?

Let me know what makes your list for the best things of summer in Japan.

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