Beat the Hot Weather! How Japanese People Deal With the Summer Heat
Japanese summers are known to be hot and humid, so there are a variety of methods, tools, and events that are available to help people beat the heat. Check out this introduction to traditional Japanese ways of overcoming the summer!
Methods to Cool Down in the Summer
Uchimizu (Splashing of Water in Gardens or Streets)
If you visit Japan during summer, you may see people splashing water onto the streets. This is one of the traditional ways to cool down in Japan known as uchimizu. When the water on the ground evaporates, it also takes away some of the heat from the ground, so the temperature of the surrounding area falls. The area of the ground that is wet also doesn't heat up as easily, and the breeze that passes over it becomes nice and cool. This is an eco-friendly way to cool down as it doesn't require electricity!
Prepare Tools to Help You Cool Down
If there's one essential item that Japanese people prepare to deal with the heat, it would be the uchiwa (traditional fan). Wave the fan back and forth to create a breeze and stay cool. Traditionally, fans were made with a bamboo skeleton with paper or cloth stretched over it, but recently, plastic versions have become very common. When you visit summer festivals and other events, they're sometimes given out for free. The sensu (folding fan) is another item that's essential during the summer. Since it can be folded, it's great for bringing around with you. Both uchiwa and sensu come in a myriad of designs so they also make for great souvenirs.
Feel Cool with the Sound of Furin
Furin (Japanese wind chimes) are small hanging bells shaped like the bells you'd find in a temple. Introduced in Japan along with the spread of Buddhism, the chimes were originally used to ward off evil. These days they're fondly regarded as a Japanese summer tradition and hung up at the front of homes and other places. The bells chime pleasantly when the wind blows, so the sound of the chimes is associated with a cool breeze. They're made from a variety of materials like metal and porcelain, but most people have ones that are made of glass. The chimes make a characteristically light sound and even their appearance reminds one of cool temperatures.
Japanese Summer Events and Festivals
This is a traditional Japanese event that happens between August 13 - 16 (in some regions it takes place in July). Based on the Buddhist Ullambana Festival, today's Obon incorporates ancestral worship and other Japanese elements. During the festival, ancestors and the dead return from the other world and the living would welcome these souls home. For that reason, many Japanese would take some days off around August 15, and return to their hometowns to visit the graves of the departed.
During summer, a number of festivals are held all over Japan. For example, there's the Sendai Tanabata Festival that is held in Sendai City between August 6 - 8 every year. It's a lively traditional festival that sees more than 2 million visitors! The streets are also covered in colorful decorations.
Besides that, there is also the Nebuta Festival in Aomori that's known for the large floats with dolls that are paraded around. In Osaka, there's the Tenjin Festival where around 100 boats participate in a river procession. Each festival has a unique local flavor. Some festivals can extend over a long period of time, like Kyoto's Gion Matsuri Festival that lasts for a month.
*The picture below is of the Sendai Tanabata Festival
Enjoying fireworks at night is also one of the quintessential Japanese ways to enjoy summer. A variety of fireworks, big and small, light up the night skies in various parts of Japan. The Omagari Hanabi that takes place in Akita is especially famous. It's a competition that features fireworks masters selected from all over Japan who set off approximately 18,000 fireworks during the event. It's certainly at the pinnacle of firework displays in Japan in terms of scale and quality.
There are many other popular firework events like the Tsuchiura All Japan Fireworks Competition in Ibaraki and the Nagaoka Festival Grand Fireworks Show that takes place in Niigata.
Omagari Hanabi Event Date: August 25, 2018 (Saturday)
Doesn't summer in Japan sound fun? Don't miss out on a chance to experience summer in the traditional Japanese way if you are planning to be here during the hot season!
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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