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Summer Fun

My entry into the Cambria Suites and TBEX blog carnival.

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As for summer activities like going to the beach and having water gun fights, well that sort of stuff is not for me. I mean, there're tons of stuff you can get into in Japan during the long summer months, like surfing and scuba diving. There're also plenty of water parks, beaches, and public pools that people can enjoy too. A few times a month at night you can enjoy the spectacle of lights and sounds as fireworks explode in the night sky. While all of these things may be fun for so many, are very uninteresting and boring for me, and just because I said it doesn't lessen the enjoyment that others may have in participating in these activities.

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Summer is a season, so for me it has to be felt and enjoyed through the senses, I believe. Sake has to be drunk, the cicadas have to be heard. Japanese gardens have to be appreciated for their long curved garden streams(yarimizu). This country is an island nation where 75% of the land is covered in wood, mountains, and hills. The wood culture in this country alone is the oldest in the world. What better way to enjoy the natural bounty and beauty of this country but through the natural way....?

garden

When I imagine the ideal summer afternoon, it's me sitting on a zabuton/ floor cushion in the center of a large and spacious tatami matted Japanese style room while overlooking the vast expanse of a beautiful Japanese garden. Next to me is a large zataku or low table. Some kind of komono / floral accessories in the middle of that low table, nihonshu with a small cup in the center. A small dimly lit andon or paper lantern by the sliding doors, or reed screens called sudare in Japanese. The cool evening summer breeze blowing up against the furin or wind chime, with its dainty little sounds soothing the entire atmosphere. Two hanging lanterns called Tsuri-doro are just outside hanging from the ceiling. And how could I forget the mystical sounds of the shishiodoshi, a bamboo seesaw that fills with water that hits a stone bowl once full - used for scaring deer. Summer wouldn't be complete without these accouterments.

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Every summer I always prepare myself for Japan's stifling heat by first purchasing a "Tenegui," a semi-soft cloth that's used for wiping sweat. This cloth is very useful for Japan's humidity as I sweat way too much during this time of year. This little cloth soaks all my sweat up plus it's a very attractive cloth that can double as a bib when eating ramen - I still get spots on my shirt. Every gaijin should have a tenegui for the summer because you'll never know when you'll need to pet the sweaty.

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The history behind this cloth goes something like this:

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Tenugui has been a very familiar and useful item for the Japanese since the EDO period (1603~) as a thin Japanese towel made of cotton or you could call it a Japanese traditional towel. In the days of old, it was used for wiping or as a handkerchief. It was also used as a dishcloth, headband, souvenir, and a tapestry for decorating rooms. It's water absorbable qualities are far more superior than standard hand towels and it also dries faster.

tenugui-vi Another interesting thing is that these towels are 35*90cm in size, so you can fold them thinly enough to fit almost anywhere.

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[Sweet Potatoe Soft]

Whenever I have a chance to stop through Kawagoe, I always have a sweet potatoe soft cream

soft cream

These cold creamy treats are the greatest. Slight departure from tradition, but delicious nevertheless. A must have..

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Next fav are these sesame seed sticky rice confectionary called goma dango. The best way to enjoy these is if they are freshly made early in the morning. Hot creamy melt in your mouth stuff. That's the only way to get the original taste. If they are several hours old then they will not taste as good because the goma thickens.

goma dango

Another summer favorite is this cold treat called mizu mangu. Whenever I'm up around Fukushima I always stop through this old confectionary shop called あけぼの白河店 called Akebono that sells these delicious treats. I love their mizu mangu. Again, early time is better. Both confections are sold here.

Aside from eating, a good summer activity I love doing a lot of is camping and BBQing especially up around Lake Tazawako. ( click the link above).

I think camping out for three days straight is my max. Another nice thing I love doing is cruising down long stretches of road lined with trees.

Japan is a densely wooded country with the oldest wood culture in the world. And then how could I forget the onsen. No trip is ever complete without a nice dip in one of these.

Or with one of these. Nudity is natural.

onsen beauty

A nice finisher would be this delicious sake written up here called a summer time nigori

Shinto. I always love visiting shrines in my area. There is no separation between Shinto, sake, and beauty. In fact they are all one and the same. Not like with Japan's present day constitution where they separate church and State. The real Japan never used to divide its most sacred institutions from its government until Democracy came along. In fact Japan was a much better country when Buddhist and Shinto were all tied into government. Now, just weak ignorant leadership. Weak government spells doom for any country.

Every summer I always visit a Shinto shrine. This clears my mind and frees my thoughts. Offering up a tithe and ringing the bell. Clapping and praying are all very beautiful and wonderful things for me to do when I visit a shrine, especially during summer.

Comments

  1. Nice article! I like your introduction to traditional Japanese summer :)

    But be careful about claiming Japan was a better country when religious influences were stronger. In fact, there have been weak and selfish leaders, too, and Zen buddhism played an important role during Japanese militarism.
    I agree with you that todays leaders are too weak, but I doubt that it would be better if buddhism or shinto were more important in politics.

    ReplyDelete
  2. theblogsideoflife,

    Thanks for stopping through. The only reason I made that unsupported inference was because Buddhism and Shintoism, namely Buddhism, was bureaucratized to help weed out foreign elements like Christianity and excessive Western ideals which, essentially made Japan weaker internally. The unification of Shinto and Buddhism was Japan's Golden Age and is also what's partly responsible for it's nationalistic rise. Back then decisions were made quickly and decisively, not like today's current political scene. Leaders may have been selfish then but they had resolve and they didn't waver on important government policy.

    ReplyDelete

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