Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Humid Japanese Summer

The Pepsi NEX summer life
Here in Toronto, our heat wave has finally broken, or so my roommate tells me - my response was "what heat wave?" The weather in Toronto, hanging around 30 degrees Celsius (86°F) has never really bothered me, compared to Osaka, which boasts some of the most humid days and nights in the country.

I often really miss summer in Japan. It's true, it was muggy, sticky and came part and parcel with all the bad stuff - I remember when all the maple candy omiyage I had brought from Canada fused into a giant mass, and ruining my first rice cooker by forgetting to clean it out before I left town during the hottest part of the summer. One year, I had kept some chocolate matcha Meltykisses from winter that, well, melted. As much fun as it was to go to festivals, I found yukata really stifling on the hottest summer nights, and distinctly remember undressing in a stall in JR Kyoto Station during Gion Matsuri just to get some of the heat off, before re-tying everything and slogging back out there. It wasn't great, but I detest the cold, so I quickly warmed up (ha ha) to the hot and humid summers and even began to enjoy them.

After Osaka, summers in Canada have been easy as pie. While my friends (raised on the east coast where both summers and winters are mild) suffer through humidity that's completely undetectable to me, I relish actually getting to wear short sleeves. 

In Japan I spent a lot of my summer days in the staff room at school, conserving my precious nenkyu (paid vacation days) for the visits of the many friends who stayed with me. I often worked through obon as the only person in the school! Thinking back to that, someone must have unlocked the gate every day, but it was rare to encounter even a single person through the whole 8 hours. I would let myself into the office and take the keys to the staff room, then sit at my desk near the window and write or read. No students, no teachers. It was somewhat eerie, but at the same time, very peaceful. 

The staff room had no air conditioner, but the fan was right behind my desk to provide some relief. Sometimes I'd go down to the womens' lounge and sit there awhile on the warm tatami. Tried not to do that too much, as it was very easy to fall asleep! I just became quite comfortable with the temperature in the school in summer - it reminded me of many summers spent at camp in New Brunswick. When I wasn't at school during summer, I travelled - to Tokyo, mostly, and once to Los Angeles. I traded the humid heat for dry heat, and didn't really care for the switch. Returning to Tokyo was a relief!

Of course, my love of the heat made winters all the worse - doubly worse after returning to Canada! Can't say I'm much looking forward to the temperatures starting to drop over the next few months...