This Summer

This summer was the best.

One of my worries about having and raising kids here in Japan was that their childhood memories would be so completely different to mine.  I had a pretty great childhood in rural England and growing up in urban Japan just seemed so foreign (duh) that I couldn’t imagine how it would compare.

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And the toddler’s childhood so far has been different to mine – of course it has – not just everyday stuff but big events and holidays too.  Christmas is the obvious one  – while it is an event here, the 25th itself is just an ordinary working day and Japanese Christmas cake bears very very little resemblance to a ‘proper’ one. But it’s easy enough to have an English-style Christmas dinner (minus the parsnips) and with a tree and decorations and a stocking it’s not really all that different from Christmas back home.

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An English Summer, though, is harder to fake, with insane humidity, weeks of 35+ degree weather and no long, light evenings.  This was the first year that the toddler’s been old enough to really enjoy what our little city has to offer in summer – nap time is no longer sacred and bedtime can be stretched out. So we took early morning and evening trips to our favourite beach, hit up as many local matsuri as we could, watched the fireworks and ate somen and kakigori by the bucket load. The toddler spent hours in the sea, got bored after 10 minutes of fireworks and danced her geta off at every matsuri.

At home we pretended over and over to go to Daiei to buy yukata which we then wore to imaginary matsuri and I could see her building her own idea (and adding to mine) of what summer is all about.

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Light, Soul

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There was a soul festival – mitama matsuri – held at our local shrine during Obon last week. With thousands of lanterns, it was so beautiful I went twice. A local group played koto on my first visit, made with a friend over from the UK (the start of a lovely, lovely evening of eating, drinking, and long-overdue late night chatting). Two nights later, we cycled down after dinner, husband, toddler and I, and were greeted by the sounds of a brass band. “Bit like at the festival” our small girl said, as we wandered back through the lanterns.

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Catch up

Well, that was an unexpectedly long blogging hiatus. I’m going to go with “far too busy having exciting adventures” rather than “far too disorganised and also maybe just a little bit lazy and oh, yes, I keep forgetting to take my camera out”. Ahem. And that’s not entirely untrue, for there have been little adventures, in no small part thanks to a shiny(ish) new (to me) bicycle, bought from a friend off on a big, faraway adventure.

This is the first bike I’ve owned in Japan, and my first made for two. The toddler, luckily, adores it, and is far happier sitting up front whizzing around town than she has ever been in a pushchair. This city is perfectly suited to two-wheeled transport   – the beach, the big park with the sandpit that isn’t full of cat poo, and the shop with the cheap olives, are all suddenly easily accessible, hours (and yen!) spent waiting for/on buses a thing of the past.

(Helmet choice toddler’s own).

Rainy season has come and (pretty much) gone and we were fortunate here to escape the flooding nearby areas suffered, the worst of it for us a case of soggy socks and mild cabin fever. Days of finger painting and teddy bears’ picnics to a soundtrack of thunder are really not so bad at all.

After the rain, of course, comes the heat of summer, the drumming of rain replaced by the humming of cicadas and a local park’s Irises making way for the lotus garden.


I’ve written here about my love of winter in Japan and really, who complains about Spring and Autumn? But summer, oh, summer in Japan and I have not been friends. Most people, I suspect, will tell you the same – it’s not the heat itself, but the humidity, like walking through soup, face towels working overtime. The thick, airless, sticky days of July and August are, frankly, just plain yucky.

This year though – at least, so far – has seemed easier. Perhaps it’s because I’ve finally adjusted to a life where 34 is a normal temperature, or because it’s only July and the worst is yet to come, or because, in my current (mostly) stay at home existence, it doesn’t matter so much if I’m soaked in sweat and red in the face, but so far, I’m kind of enjoying it. I have a feeling that in a couple of weeks, when I start teaching a class that means taking a commuter train, wearing a suit, looking smart, I might be a little less enamoured of summer.

However unpleasant and sticky, though, there is, of course, always the food. The heat makes me want to drink vinegar by the bottle, but in efforts to be a little more balanced, we have been eating bowl after bowl (after bowl) of this cold soba dish, and takes on this cucumber salad. Plus, of course, heaps of fruit – watermelon, plums, peaches – straight up, smoothie-fied, and occasionally in pancake form. 

We will have visitors this summer, and maybe a camping trip, and hopefully a not insubstantial amount of ice cream, and it will fly by so that before I know it, we will have been here in our new home for a whole year, and I will be mother to a two year old.