We're in the midst of a hot summer now, but luckily we live in the modern age of technology. Can you imagine what life in the summer would be like without air conditioning and other modern technology? How else could we enjoy the numerous forms of entertainment and festivals that people throughout Japan look forward to each summer?
Japan has four seasons, and the people of Japan traditionally have had numerous ways to enjoy each of them. They place great importance on the progression of the four seasons, and have developed their culture and leisure activities around it. The worlds of traditional art, cuisine, tea ceremony, and omotenashi have also evolved from this concept.
Let us take a moment to introduce how the people of Japan enjoy summer.
Traditions for beating the heat in Japanese daily life
The ancestors of today's Japanese population thought up numerous special ways to escape the summer heat.
Water sprinkling "Uchimizu"
One thing people used to do was “uchimizu”, simply sprinkling water on the streets and gardens in the morning before the ground gets hot and again in the afternoon to cool down the ground. It also kept the dust down in the neighborhoods.
After cooling down the streets, people often sat on outdoor benches called “suzumi-dai” to spend late summer afternoons with family, friends, and neighbors. They wore yukata (summer kimono), still very popular for people to wear in the summer, and held paper fans. There were wind chimes (fūrin) in front of the houses that made a beautiful timbre, which has been described as having a very "cooling" sound.
Wind chime (FUrin)
There is no clear record of when we started to use wind chimes in our homes, but it is believed to have originated from usage at temples. Traditionally, a golden wind bell is hung in the temple, and we can hear its sound when a strong wind blows. In the old days, it was believed that a strong wind brought epidemic and even an unwelcome god who caused misfortune, so the bell was used as a talisman to protect against them. The area in which the sound of the bell could be heard was considered a protected area. The use of the golden wind bell increased as a talisman and even as a “shoki-barai” to forget the summer heat as the temperature rose and the danger of disease spreading increased.
Glass kitchenware (Edo Kiriko)
The introduction of the glass manufacturing method came during the 18th century, and following that Japan experienced a glasswork boom during the 19th century, especially in Edo (the old name of the capital, Tokyo), thus resulting in the emergence of the glass-made wind chime. This glasswork originating in Edo was called Edo Kiriko and has given rise to a variety of glass products being made throughout Japan.
Edo Kiriko, now a wildly popular "Made in Tokyo" type of traditional craft, can be experienced in Tokyo if one knows where to look. We would like to offer you this unique experience, through which you will have the opportunity to witness the incredible skill of Master Yoshiro Kobayashi, former board chairman of the Tokyo Cut Glass Manufacturing Cooperative, whose skill comes from his father, who has been declared a "Master Contemporary Craftsman."
For more information, please access our experience page.
The Japanese also came up with events only held during the summer, which everyone looks forward to the whole year. Some popular events include hanabi taikai (firework events), omatsuri (temple & shrine festivals), and nōryōsen (summer boat parties, which literally means "cooling ship" in Japanese ). Originally, these events were fun get-togethers for the townspeople, but nowadays, they are a reason to gather with friends and colleagues and dress in their traditional summer yukata . Although these events tend to be very popular and crowded, there are ways to avoid the crowd, such as reserving a table at a restaurant with the perfect view for watching fireworks, or renting out a private boat and cruising around Tokyo Bay.
If you happen to come to Japan during the summer, why not immerse yourself in the seasonal traditions only found during this time of the year?