Summers in Japan are filled with humid and extremely hot days. There are many different ways to spend the summer, from enjoying the heat to cooling down at a summer event. This article will introduce you to some distinctly Japanese ways to spend the summer.
Splitting Watermelons, Nagashi Somen, and Ghost Stories
This article will introduce you to 3 representative traditions of Japanese summers!
Splitting watermelons is a popular pastime at summer festivals or at the beach. This game involves one person being blindfolded and relying on the voices of those around them to find the watermelon placed on the ground and hit it with a stick to burst it open. The best part of the game is when the split watermelon is then shared with those around you.
"Nagashi somen" is the term given to a custom in which extra-fine noodles made from flour are placed in a stream of water flowing down a flume made of bamboo which has had the top half removed. Customers then have to scoop up the noodles using chopsticks. These flumes are often installed in leisure facilities for a limited time only. The refreshing taste of the noodles and cooling sounds of the running water will have you forgetting about the summer heat.
Telling Ghost Stories
The Japanese custom of telling spooky ghost stories during the summer (a time when souls of the dead return) that will send a shiver down your spine is said to have been adapted from a traditional art form performed to assuage the ghosts and spirits of those who died. Surrounding yourself with candlelight on a summer's evening will give you a natural cooling chill.
Enjoy the Taste of Summer
While there are many Japanese summer foods to blow away the summer heat, here are 2 particularly well-known ones.
There are numerous different types of shaved ice treats to enjoy, from the standard type doused in colorful syrup to other variations with fresh fruit, matcha (powdered green tea), and azuki beans on top. There are an increasing number of stores making their shaved ice from natural mineral water, with a number of these such stores in Tokyo.
Since the Edo period (1603-1868) there has been a tradition in Japan to eat unagi (Japanese eel) on the "Midsummer Day of the Ox" (the day of the ox in the ancient Chinese calendar marking the changing of seasons). Eel is rich in vitamins and has revitalizing properties that can help alleviate summer heat fatigue. You are sure to be enchanted by the flavorful aroma and soft texture of split-open eel broiled in the "Kabayaki" style with soy sauce.
Participate in a Summer Festival
Plagues and diseases tend to spread more quickly during the summer months. Therefore, many Japanese festivals find their origins in Shinto rituals which were devised to appease evil spirits who were wont to bring destruction. The most symbolic of these is Kyoto's Gion festival, in which a portable shrine that houses a deity is carried aloft and paraded through the streets in a massive event. Other festivals include the Nebuta Festival, which features massive golden lanterns known as Nebuta, as well as the Awa Odori Festival in Tokushima in which you can see a massive display of traditional dance that boasts over 400 years of history. There are other unique summer festivals held in every part of the country.
Awa Odori Festival
Enjoy Unique Japanese Summer Products
You should also be sure to check out the essential Japanese products that will help you have a pleasant summer. One creation that Japan can be proud of inventing is the mosquito coil. While this convenient product will exterminate mosquitoes, the natural enemy of summers, an added bonus is that its coil shape is quite cute. Other goods include the wind chimes that hang in the entrance ways of shops and houses unleashing a refreshing chime as the wind passes, as well as the sensu (folding fans) and uchiwa (handheld fans), both of which are available in a wealth of traditional designs and refined styles. Be on the lookout for the many types of summer products with watermelon motifs on them.
A mosquito coil
A wind chime
Drink Beer at a Beer Garden
While sweating outdoors in the heat, one way to enjoy the summer is to gulp down an ice cold beer. Beer gardens in Japan gained popularity after the first were opened on department store rooftops in the post-war period. Nowadays there are more and more to be found in parks and at tourist sites. Two particular well-known beer garden spots include the Sapporo Odori Beer Garden, which boasts a long history and is the largest in the country, and the Mori no Beer Garden, which is located in the outer garden of Meiji Jingu Shrine and offers patrons the chance to enjoy a beer surrounded by nature.
If you are planning to visit Japan during summer, make the most of it by spending it in ways you can only experience in Japan!
*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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