Japanese Summer – A Hatred in Three Parts

Late April 2011

Japan has a lot of things in abundance.

  • Vending machines can be found every couple of blocks.
  • Thousands of shuffling old people block your path, then push you while sprinting toward empty train seats.
  • An army of miniature vans drive around, constantly yelling about garbage removal or trying to garner votes for politicians.
  • Every train car has a sleepy person with absolutely no shame, laying their head on the shoulders of those next to them.
  • Every Summer day is so disgustingly wet and hot, that any time spent outdoors is a discomfort.

Today was a warm day, and as Spring wraps up and the rainy season rolls in, we are going to have a lot more uncomfortable sweaty days. Trains are an oasis of air-conditioned pleasure after waiting on steamy platforms.
Due to the massive earthquake knocking out a large source of electricity, we’ve seen power-saving measures all over Tokyo, including half-lit train stations, and famously illuminated Shibuya Crossing only lit by one comically large TV instead of the typical four. There has already been talk of true power shortages on the horizon, and with air conditioning being the only thing stopping the city from being awash in a tsunami of sweat, it’s safe to say that being in Tokyo for this summer is going to stink. Tokyo has had warm summers for a number of year, but some scientists hypothesize that these hot summers date as far back as the Cambrian Explosion, and the residual heat from the explosion continues to make Tokyo summers a very hot time indeed.

Tokyo not having electricity is something that happens as frequently as hell freezing over, which would be a nice escape from the humid, sweaty version of hell that we have to look forward to from June to September.

My typical reaction to this shitJapan has already instituted a plan dubbed “cool biz”, where men go without ties in the summer months, and wear lighter cotton suits. This was put in place to put less of a strain on the air-conditioners used in over half of the country.

Last summer was bad enough when I would go to the bathroom. I had to peel my male bits from my inner thigh and be rewarded with a sound similar to that of Velcro. “Relieving myself” is never really a relief, as my eyes suffer chemical burn from the noxious cloud ammonia from the evaporated urine. This summer I am rather scared at how little clothing I plan to wear, and others will be scarred when they see my exposed body.

Mid August 2011

Japanese is an efficient language, which allows words to be omitted if they are generally understood. Take the English sentence of “This food is delicious”. “Delicious” describes something edible, so we can omit “food”, and are left with “This is delicious”. It’s likely that we are talking about a food in front of us, and not a food in the general sense, allowing us to simply say “delicious”, and we’ve managed to cut out half of the syllables of the original sentence.
Because of this grammatical efficiency, and oppressive heat that could make even the most hardened desert-dweller cry, between the months of April and September everyone says “hot”. Always, “hot”. “hot!”, “Hot, isn’t it!”, “yeah, hot!”

Nobody says “hello” anymore.

For all of its efficiency in dropping words if they are implied, it remains a mystery why everyone constantly feels the need to say “hot”. No fucking shit, it’s hot, and it’s been hot the same time of year, every year, for years and years. Before the word was even created to express the thought of hot, Japanese Summers have always been….hot.

Japan has hypothetically been tightening its belt when it comes to energy consumption. Elevators are still being randomly turned off, and trains are missing florescent light bulbs. Soon, the energy consumption is going to end and Japan can go back to wasting electricity in abundance. 23 degree Celsius offices, heated and cool drinks being contained in the same vending machines that consume more electricity than the common household, and people throwing out any unused electricity after dinner instead of wrapping it up and taking it home to power their newly purchased TVs.

I’m sitting here on the train pounding this out, while a rotund white guy seated across from me is busy taking up two seats and patting his brow. He’s bound up in a suit that’s tensile strength is being pushed to the limit while he is weighing and sweating heavily. I’m wearing Birkenstocks, and a too low polo, blasting my horrid chest hair and giving absolutely zero fucks about appearance. I dread the job I have tomorrow, where I must wear a suit. I’d much rather stay at home and wear a large smile in my birthday suit.
Being naked is hot. That is hot. Hot.

Mid September 2011

The oven alarm goes off, which means that it’s pizza time. 9 minutes is all it takes before you have yourself a terribly delicious, wonderfully under priced, 10 inch Tony’s frozen pizza. After making the mistake of burning the shit out of your mouth the previous hundred times, this time you decide to let it cool. This is always the most difficult part, since the pizza’s tantalizing aroma invades your living space during baking and cooling. In the past, it had been so easy to take that pizza out of the oven, and just like a hipster, start eating it before it was cool. Aside from napalm or a burning stick, the cheese is the stickiest, burniest thing that comes in contact with the roof of your mouth. It takes far too long for the pizza to cool down. The wait is torture in itself.
This waiting, burning, and pain sounds strikingly similar to Tokyo Summers, which I shall complain about once more from the following paragraph onward.

This is a sentence, not a paragraph.

Much like the outdoor temperature, my raging hatred rises to a boiling point in the middle of the summer over how hot and humid it is. After nearly half a year of horrible sweltering shitweather, temperatures are now returning to those in the range of “capable of hosting life”. Japan’s Summer is as long and annoying as Ishtar. There are occasional cool days that pop up, causing everyone to smile and smugly say “Summer is over”, as if we ourselves had accomplished something great. Like the previous hundred times, we get burned by this comment and the next day is hot again.

Summer doesn’t end until late September, which thankfully has just arrived on the calendar. Last night marked the first time I had used a blanket since April. A cool rain fell on Tokyo, and I fell asleep to the droning wash of water that persisted all the way until my alarm went off. This kind of weather brings me even more joy than a 3 dollar frozen pizza.

A typical American Summer

A typical American Summer

If you’ve ever talked to a Japanese person, they may have mentioned that “Japan has 4 seasons”. Well, no shit…but to clarify, they mean to say that “Japan has 4 distinct seasons” which is still not quite correct. For millennium, Japanese have considered Japan unique because each season is different and distinct, much like every other city on the planet not frozen in ice. Nearly every place that has “4 seasons” doesn’t make a big deal out of it because it’s as amazing as their city having the nation’s 3rd largest frying pan, which may be amazing for people locally, but completely uninteresting for anyone outside of your area, especially those with the nation’s 2nd or 1st largest pans.
Japan doesn’t have 4 seasons, but 5. There is something called tsuyu (梅雨) thrown in there which means “rainy season”; a month where it’s humid and rainy pretty much every day. Aside from Spring and Fall, the other seasons are rather shit.

I’m glad that Tokyo is cooling down again. Our yearly punishment draws to a close, and we are treated with the sublime weather of Fall.

edit: sublime weather interrupted by typhoon

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