Hot. Humid. Two common words often used by Japanese people when summer days come. In summer, the Japanese people’s way of opening the conversation is usually atsui desu ne (it’s hot, isn’t it?). And though I don’t really enjoy the sweat that comes from these hot, humid days of July and August, I have also come to appreciate the beauty that these days bring to this country.
Summer is not a popular time to go to Japan. Most tourists would want to visit in the spring to see the Cherry Blossoms, in autumn to see the fall foliage or in the winter to experience snow. Summer, however, is where you can experience festive events that are rich in cultural experience.
Seeing ladies and gentlemen wearing yukata is a common site in summer. Most often than not, they are headed to some “hanabi” watching (fireworks display) with friends. In the summer, most of the main rivers in Tokyo have Hanabi Festival where you spend your evening in picnic mats waiting for the extravagant display of lights.
Some days, you will find yukata-clad Japanese- young and old alike- sprinkling water on the ground, a tradition that they call “uchimizu”.
It is also during the summer that Japanese people celebrate the Obon season, “the summer festival of welcoming back ancestors’ spirits and returning to one’s family roots.” You’ll see cemeteries with flowers and altars at homes, restaurants, stores with some special food. At the last day of Obon, you’ll see floating lanterns in rivers, lakes and seas -believed by locals to be guides for their ancestors’ spirits back to the world where they came from.
And then you’ll find the local communities performing bonodori dances (a dance originally performed for the deceased but recently has become a symbol of summer festivals). I witnessed one in Hiroo last year and another in Machida this year. Seeing the old ladies teaching the dance to the children is also a sight to remember. There is a passion in them to pass on the tradition to the younger generation. Read more here.
I don’t have pictures of all these so I just borrowed from some sites but I hope you get to see how Japanese people spend their summer. The Japanese culture is really bringing out the curiosity in me… and I hope you too as well. It is a challenging country to live in, and there is always something to see and something to learn every season, every day.