To sum it all, my summer Japan trip was great; I learned about the things that Japan has to offer in summer. Although my list is not comprehensive, below are the things that I came across:
Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri
One of the many firework festivals that I attended was Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri. This year the Edogawa Fireworks Festival turns 41 – making it one of the oldest fireworks festivals in Tokyo. The venue, Metropolitan Shinozaki Park point on the banks of the Edogawa River, is about half an hour walk from Shinozaki Station. It was a very long walk but nonetheless I enjoyed looking at people along the way. Most local people wore the traditional yukata, summer kimono or jinbei.
Girls in traditional yukata.
The fireworks display can actually be viewed from either side of the river; Edogawa (the side that I was at), and Ichikawa (opposite side), that is known as the Ichikawa City Nohryo Fireworks Festival.
In summer, most people wear yukata; a casual kimono-like garment worn during the summer. It’s unlined and usually made of cotton to make the fabric more breathable. Yukata are popular for dressing up for summer events like firework festivals. Yukata wearing dates back over 1,000 years to when they were worn by the nobility to and from their baths in the days before bath towels were used in Japan. Because yukata are much cheaper than silk kimono, they became very popular during the Edo period when there were strict laws that prevented people from living extravagantly.
Ayu, river fish
Grilled salted ayu, or sweetfish, is a staple at summer festival food stalls. Ayu, also known as Sweetfish, is abundant during summer time in Japan. When summer arrives, many Japanese go river fishing for Ayu, which has a sweet, distinctive flavour. Catching Ayu is prohibited from November to May, as a measure to protect the species, but becomes legal from June when the skin and bones are especially soft.
Edo furin, wind-chime
Furin (Wind-chime): Introduced from China by monks and used to know the direction of wind and a charm against evil. The soothing sound of Furin is a symbol of summer. Japanese people enjoy that furin changes the wind into sound. Though most furins were made of bronze, glass furins appeared in the Edo period. Glassworks artisans in Nagasaki made furins and started selling them in Osaka, Kyoto and Edo (Tokyo).
The summer hand-fan are available abundantly during the summer. I got some free ones during the Edogawa Hanabi Matsuri. There are two types of fan that I came across: Sensu and Uchiwa. Uchiwa are the popular and common flat and ridged hand held Japanese fans made primarily of paper on a bamboo frame. Often the traditional fans were beautifully decorated with a simple art work or design. Although traditional, hand made uchiwa fans remain popular, modern day uchiwa fans are often mass produced from paper on plastic frames with advertising for local businesses, products or festivals printed on them. Popular motifs for the uchiwa include designs portraying cooling streams or breezes, bamboo leaves, goldfish and fireworks. Sensu, on the other hand, a fan that is made from pleated paper, silk, or other cloth, allowing it to be spread into an arc or folded into a neat, rectangular shape.
One more thing that I could find easily in Japan during summer was watermelon! I even had a watermelon ice-cream that looked exactly like watermelon. Around the late June grocery stores and super markets start selling watermelons and it gives the feeling of beginning summer.
In Japan, the cicada is associated with the summer season. On my recent trip, I heard it at the park, and on the trees along the roadside. I like to think that the sound of summer cicada is melancholy, and it has been featured in literature. Cicada is one of the summer kigos in haiku (Japanese poetry). Matsuo Basho wrote in “Oku no Hosomichi”—
At a quiet and empty temple in the deep mountain,
a cicada start to sing,
but its sound gets sucked into a rock.
And here’s my take on Japan in summer in the form of haiku poetry:
add joy to the green and blue,
cheeks flush a pink blush.
Dazzling colour splash
lits up Edogawa sky;