Summer time and the livin’ is easy…. sings Ella Fitzgerald. Well, not exactly so in Japan. Summertime is not easy for Japanese and even more so for foreigners.
Heat and humidity are at their peak, sun is strong and even in the shade you are suffering (believe me).
Despite short days (you can read about it here), sale of fans, umbrellas and sunscreen seems to be the most profitable business during summer season, competing perhaps only with ice coffee and beer.
When western women desperately want to get a nice tan, Japanese ladies are obsessed with white (or better said, light) skin. You will see ladies with umbrellas, covering hands or even 3/4 of their arms with special gloves, and still looking for a shade to hide. If one still managed to get a tan, there is a wide selection of whitening foaming cleansers, whitening cremes and similar products to remedy the damage.
Another distinctive feature of summertime in Japan is festivals. A Japanese summer cannot be imagined without hundreds of matsuri (matsuri is a Japanese word for a festival), taking place all over Japan, with dancers, parades, people in yukata (summer kimono), food and drinks, and of course fireworks.
Eco-minded citizens may not be excited about the idea of firework displays lasting for 30-40 minutes each time, but that what summer is like in Japan.
You can be sure that almost every day there is a firework display somewhere in the country.
For a comparison, the one and the only time you can see fireworks in Paris is July 14th, full stop (yes, it is not the New Year!).
Many department stores and hotels would open their rooftop terraces for summer parties known as beer gardens that can be accompanied by happy hours or “all you can drink in 1 hour for a fixed price” type of offers.
Yet…one day you go out and realize that summer is over. There is no official rentrée, like in France, but the heat suddenly goes down (humidity however may get even worse as September is a typhoon season) and the pâtisserie shops put on display sweets “for autumn tea break”.
Here I switch to Sinatra singing “The Girl from Ipanema” and summer mood continues… until Japan meteorological agency will announce the next tropical cyclone.