living covertly in Japan

Posts tagged ‘summer’

Genki Card #6 – Hot as (fill in the blank)

Hot as (fill in the blank)

Summer in Japan is hot. There’s no central heat and air in most buildings and homes, and the locals seem to believe that complaining about the heat is all the soothing balm you need to weather the storm. Well, even though we all have slanty eyes, this asian (me) isn’t the kind to suffer without innovating. I asked for a fan and was given a little paper and plastic number that I had to wave back and forth in front of my face to fully utilize. However, this caused my arm to use energy and expend heat, which made me hot and also tired my arm out after a few hours. That’s not solving any problems. So I moved on to an electric fan. This worked well until they told me that I’d have to actually work and teach classes. I unplugged the fan and hauled it with me up and down the stairs to the different classes, but this also made me hot, which is the opposite of what I was going for. Now I’m stuck at a crossroads. I have several options to consider.

  • Get used to the heat. (f-that)
  • Hire a scantily clad female assistant to follow me around with a palm branch. (seems reasonable)
  • Force my students to construct large billows from paper-mâché and bits of their chairs and desks and then use them to create and artificial breeze wherever I go. (as long as I don’t pay them I don’t think it’d count as child labor)
  • Create a semi-intelligent robot that has an industrial sized fan installed in it’s chest that also serves as a wood chipper. (the robots will obey us as long as they don’t learn to love)
  • Cause another ice age (unfortunately that might be trademarked already by  20th Century Fox)
  • Continuously eat ice cream (there’s no such thing as too much dairy right?)
  • Have central air and heat installed in any building I plan to visit or work in or live in. (right after I have enough money to buy an xbox!)
  • Cover myself with mud. (works for elephants…)
Or just always wear a bikini… (someone get her a palm branch!!!)

Tastes like Spring

Living in Japan has given me a whole new appreciation for the seasons. In Japan there are a lot of very season specific things we do and eat. Most of it is very new to me.

I grew up in Florida for the most part. Basically America’s Australia, Floridian seasons differ about as much as the ethnicity of Abercrombie & Fitch models. Sadly the state that I spent my 2nd longest residency was Kansas. I moved there around Christmas in 2000, (Merry Fucking Christmas, right?), but easing the blow was the fact that I was moving to Kansas after a year in Kentucky. I try to block out as much of Kansas as possible now, but from what I can remember… Summer was blisteringly hot, temperatures would push around 103°F (39.4°C, that doesn’t as bad, stupid metrics…).Winter was cold as fuck, -2°F (-19°C, that sounds much much worse…) I remember one time school was canceled because it was so cold the school buses refused to run, that’s right, the machines that run on burning petroleum products said it was too ball-freezing cold to do anything but sit motionless at home. Fall and Spring were pleasant, but the simple fact that about 50% of the year sucked you’d have to be a glass-half full sort of person to like living there, which I’m not thank the good Lord… (Or British)

For reference, I live in Fukuoka Prefecture in Japan. It’s the northern most prefecture on the large southern island of Kyushu. We’re at about the same latitude as South Carolina and Northern Morocco.

 

Fukuoka… and no, it’s not pronounced like you wish it was.


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Summer

Summer in Japanese is “natsu.”  Summer-time means you eat watermelon, grapes, cold soba noodles, and cook meat outside.

mmmmm… meat…



You go to the beach.

Summer is nice.



There are festivals and girls wearing yukatas.

Yukata means “bathing clothing”



In the early morning I go fishing at the river next to my house. I wear my jimbei and sandals to the go shopping and draw strange looks from the natives because only Yakuza walk around like that on everyday errands. The thermometer hits about 38-39°C on the warmest days, but I have no idea how hot that actually is.

There is also Obon in August. It’s the time dedicated to pay respect to the dead. You carry little paper lanterns while burning incense while you walk to the graveyard. You clean up the family graves and bring fresh flowers and mochi, sticky rice balls, for the hungry spirits. Families come home and spend time with each other, I see it as a little like Thanksgiving in that regard.


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Fall

Fall in Japanese is “aki.”  Aki is a popular girls name, typically coupled with -ko, which means child. Fall is the best fishing season. We eat Japanese pears, which are far superior to the western counterparts, and persimmons which the Greeks considered the fruit of the gods.

 

= crazy delicous. Cronic what?


We celebrate Oktober-fest at gaijin-bars and drink Belgium brewed beers that have high alcohol levels. There are fireworks festivals, more girls in yukatas, and more festival foods.

 

Ninjas also don’t get to drink on the job. Advantage pirates…


We start going on more trips to the onsens, hot springs and taking scenic trips to buy locally grown produce from neighboring prefectures. The latter half of fall is the beginning of crab and oyster season, which is cause for more celebration.

 

How do you celebrate?


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Winter

Winter in Japanese is “fuyu.” It’s not so cold in Fukuoka. There are maybe 3-5 days when we get a dusting of snow. It never really sticks or anything so you don’t get to make snowmen or snow penises or whatever you make out of snow. Again, because of metrics, I’m not sure how cold it really gets, but if I run around naked outside I start to shiver and girls tend to wear more clothes (T_T)

I’m convinced that Japanese women are impervious to cold from the waist down.


Food in the winter is hot and delicious for the most part. We eat a lot of crab.

I mean a lot of crab…


Christmas isn’t really celebrated. Christmas Eve is a popular date night for young couples. Japanese Christmas traditions don’t involve any trees usually and very few presents if any. People do eat “Christmas cake” and KFC, through a long running marketing campaign, has made chicken a popular Christmas dinner. I’m not a big fan though, because they charge about $50 for a slow roasted chicken that you could get for $10 at Costco (Costco Japan, btw).

The big holiday is New Years. The big event on New Years for me is making mochi. It’s accomplished by smashing rice with large wooden mallets which seems fun at first but doing it for 6 hours sucks. We also eat some strange foods like sea slug and pufferfish.

See 11 Strangest Things I’ve Eaten in Japan


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Spring

Spring is “haru” in Japanese.

We start planting crops, baseball season starts, school starts, and girls start shedding their heavy winter coats, yay!

We also eat something called tsukushi. It’s a very common plant (weed) that grows in damp areas like drainage ditches (like most weeds). The common name for it in English is horsetail.

We go out and gather this plant (weed) in damp places.

 

…in damp places… like drainage ditches!


You clean off the dried up husks.


The locals tell me that it tastes like “spring.”


You cook it with soy sauce and scrambled eggs.

I asked the obvious question, “Spring tastes like ditch water?”

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Differences in culture aside Japan still needs help. Please visit my other blog to see if there’s anything you can do.

Fukuoka Now Lifeline

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