I figured since we had relatively mild summers the past two years that we were due for a scorcher. I was right. Our temps the past two weeks have been in the upper 90’s and over a hundred with the heat index. At the moment it’s 107 degrees F. outside. I’m sheltering in my tatami room with our big ole’ clunker AC humming. I actually haven’t used it too much but this heat is extreme.
Yesterday I had to get out of the house. Playing hostess the past month has left me little time for myself. I spent the first three days after the kids left just cleaning and getting the house in order. Yesterday I had a free day. I woke up early, got my chores done and set out on foot by around 9:30 AM. It was already over 100 at that time but the need to wander was overwhelming and I decided to brave the heat.
Actually, when I slid open the kitchen window at 6:30 AM and the singing of hundreds of semi blasted through the screen I knew it was going to be a really hot day. A quick check of the thermometer showed it was already 92 degrees.
I dressed as cool as I could, took plenty of coins for the vending machine and set off-camera around my neck.
I have to say-thank goodness for Japan’s love of vending machines. They are everywhere-even in places where you would never expect a vending machine to be. By the time I finish one drink-the next vending machine is usually in sight.
I wanted to see the dragonflies. This year there are just hundreds and hundreds of them…swarms everywhere you look. Taking the back road I walked down to the rice-fields because that’s usually where they hang out. I wasn’t disappointed! There were clouds of them buzzing around. Several came and landed on my hat and shoulder…they sure are friendly little things. Very curious too as they were swarming around me as I walked. I tried hard to get photos of them but they don’t stay still for longer than a second!
No one else was around…not even the ancient gardeners that tend the little cottage gardens nestled between the paddies. It was just me, the dragon flies and thousands of singing cicadas in the sweltering heat of summer. The rice fields are now emerald green. According to my Japanese weather almanac this is the time of year when foliage is at peak green…and so it is.
I wasn’t far from the farmer’s market so I thought I’d take a stroll over there and see what was going on. Besides the usual seasonal vegetables and fruit there is always something else to see and experience.
Today the main attraction was the Kakigōri (shaved ice) stand. Kakigōri is a shaved ice sweet treat that is flavored with different kinds of syrup and /or sweetened condensed milk. Sometimes it contains azuki-a sweet bean paste. It’s similar to a snow-cone but the ice is of a different consistency. It’s “fluffier”-the only way I can really explain it.
There was a long line at the stand.
This lady snuck in on the wrong side….
The ice-cream stand wasn’t crowded at all. I lucked out…I’m not a fan of Kakigōri -no waiting at all for ice cream. Japan’s soft cream is the best I’ve ever had. There is a green tea shop not far from here-up in the mountain. It sells the best matcha ice cream ever. That’s my favorite…matcha!
The market was fairly crowded today.
Little old ladies with their rustic sales counters -selling fruit and veggies from their backyard gardens looked all but wilted in the heat.
I wandered around and stopped by at a few stands to say hello to friends and chat for a moment about how hot the summer was this year! Of course that’s the main topic of conversation now…and the number one phrase floating around is…”atsui des ne”! It’s hot!!
I always wonder about things like this …dried fish and seafood…especially when it is so hot out. I saw a few flies landing here and there….note to self: do not buy any of these products here.
Stopping by the vending machine to stock up on cold green tea before hitting the road again I decided to take the back road home and stop by the local temple.
Sitting in the shade of the temple bell tower a thousand semi sung in the height of a summer’s afternoon. It was around 110 degrees F by then.
I realized, sitting there, that I missed these hot days of summer. The past two years it was as if summer had passed us by. These hot, sweltering days of natsu (summer) are the days that I have come to associate with this season …the heat and everything that goes with it. It felt right…the heat, the insects…all of it. I had that feeling you get when you finally come home after being gone a while.
By now I had little rivulets of sweat running constantly down my back. There was a constant drip from my forehead and chin that left little wet splotches on the stone steps. My cold tea was now lukewarm.
The trees were getting a trim today. Through the branches I could see someone carefully pruning the top most branches of an old cherry tree.
I sat silently…dripping sweat on the steps and appreciated it all. I mean I deeply appreciated it.
Taking the little path home instead of the noisy road…all I could think of was how wonderful a cold shower would feel…