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Summer in Japan, from a Foreigner’s Perspective

The heat everyday is sweltering. How has everyone been doing?

Even before I came to Japan, I heard a lot about the heat of Japanese summers, but I wasn’t able to imagine just how hot it would turn out to be. So when summertime came in Japan, I was hardly able to believe that there were such hot countries in the world!

What do you think of when you picture summer in Japan?

For me, a wind chime captures the image of summer in Japan! Pictures and sounds of wind chimes appear in Japanese anime or TV dramas, too, but this summer, I heard a wind chime for myself for the first time. The sound came from the more than 300 wind chimes that line the center street of UMIE, a shopping mall in Kobe. Their beautiful sound made me feel a little bit cooler.

In addition to wind chimes, shaved ice is another image of summer! Kaki-gori shaved ice is unique to Japan, and while there may be similar items out there, I don’t think it’s very common to see it in other countries. When I looked into it, it seems that kaki-gori shaved ice was originally a dessert for Heian Period nobility in Japan. I think it’s amazing that such an ancient tradition still exists in the 21st century.

Other summertime things that I think are very Japanese include breaking open watermelons and eating nagashi somen (“flowing noodles” which are caught with chopsticks as they flow down a bamboo chute). Watermelon is eaten in the summer in Russia, too, but we simply take it home and eat it all together. We don’t have a game where we wear a blindfold, take a stick, and listen to the voices around us to locate and smash open the watermelon. I was really excited when I got to participate in this watermelon-breaking game for the first time! Nagashi somen noodles are also something that can be enjoyed as a summer pastime, which I think is really interesting.

There really are a lot of ways to enjoy the summer in Japan! This year, with the coronavirus, it’s difficult to participate in summer events, but I’m looking forward to getting the most out of them next year!

Speaking of summer, have you heard of Kobe City’s special heat prevention methods? I was really impressed with the measures the city’s taking. Cities like Kobe tend to feel hotter than the countryside. In the city, the temperature you feel is affected not only by the heat that comes directly from sunlight, but also from the heat that comes from the asphalt, how much the buildings block the wind, the heat that gets reflected off the buildings, and exhaust heat from cars, all of which can make a temperature of 30 degrees Celsius feel like 40 degrees.

Because of these factors, Kobe City has undertaken a variety of new measures, and I think it’s a very comfortable city to be in. In places like Kobe East Park, where people are likely to gather, they’ve installed mist devices and cooling benches to make more cool spaces. You’ll feel revived if you stop by these for just a moment!

When I go to work in the morning, and the ground is soaking wet, even though there wasn’t any rain the night before, I often wonder, “Huh, did I just not notice the rain?” As it turns out, this water has been scattered on purpose! By tossing water onto the asphalt, its surface temperature can be brought down by 2 degrees. That’s amazing! There’s even something called the “Great Kobe Water-Sprinkling Operation” in the city. Regular citizens can take part in this event, where everyone pours water in the gardens and along the streets.

To keep ourselves cool, everyone drinks iced beverages and uses air conditioning, right? But please be careful.

Air conditioned rooms feel nice, but they create a huge difference between the temperature outside and inside, which can make it easier for your body to catch a cold. In addition, eating foods or drinking beverages with ice in them can slow down your digestion and decrease your appetite, so be sure to eat properly, too! Be sure to be conscious of your health as you spend time in air conditioned rooms.

I hope we can all enjoy summer in Kobe together!

There’s information about how to prevent heatstroke in the July edition of Kobe City’s “Kobe PR Paper.” Be sure to take a look!

・ Kobe PR Paper July Edition Page 5 “Summer Heatstroke Prevention With Our New Way of Life”(PDF) 

・Kobe PR Paper List (Kobe City Official Website)