Saturday, July 4, 2009
We all have our favorite summer traditions: cookouts, 4th of July parades, state fairs, baseball games or summer camp. This 4th of July I got to thinking about summer traditions in other countries.
I lived in Japan for five years, and discovered a whole new set of summer traditions that I grew to enjoy.
Once the weather starts warming up you'll find the new seasonal beers available. Not only do all the major beer companies have a slightly different summer recipe, but they also have special cans, with beautiful, summery images, and fanciful names that have nothing to do with beer like "Summer Tales." To enjoy your summer beer even more, dozens of rooftop beer gardens spring up just for a couple of months and are generally packed after work. One of the attractions of these is an all-you-can-eat-and-drink deal, where you pay for 1 or 2 hours of almost unlimited food and beer. No surprise that this is extremely popular in a country where going out tends to be very expensive.
Fireworks are another summer specialty. Several cities have long-standing firework shows and festivals. The Sumida-gawa fireworks exhibit in Tokyo is one of the oldest and most popular, dating back to 1732! Spectators grab their spots along the river early in the day and picnic (including summer beers, of course!) until dark and the actual fireworks show. I can honestly say that I have never seen fireworks like these. The show is long and the shapes and colors are incredibly creative. Each display is greeted with a chorus of 'ooh,' 'ahh' and 'sugoi' (Japanese for 'cool' or 'awesome.')
Since summers in Japan can be extremely hot and humid, Japanese try to find ways of cooling off. During this season you'll find people wearing thin cotton kimonos called yukata. When you go to stay in a Japanese inn, they provide a yukata for each guest and people wear them as they wander around the summer resorts, though in the cities you would rarely see someone wearing them outside except for festivals.
And last is one of my very favorite summer traditions: wind chimes. People will hang these up only during the summer when the breezes are fairly gentle. One of my friends told me that something about the sound of wind chimes makes people feel cooler. Since then, every time I hear wind chimes, I think of the summers I spent in Japan. It's an unmistakable sound of summer.
Posted by EM Lynley at 12:12 PM