Sunday, 3 August 2003

...summer's here and the time is riiiight, for sweating in the streeet....

It is hot today. In fact it has been hot and really quite sunny for the past couple of days now. Yeah! The rainy season is over, with its dull, monotonous grey skies and unpleasant humid rain. Now summer is here we can sit around and complain about how hot it is - makes a change from complaining about wet it is. Anyway, I personally think it is a great improvement.

According to the paper today, the 'Official' end to the rainy season for Tokyo was announced by the Met office on Saturday 2nd August. This was 13 days later than last year and only the third time since records began that the rainy season lasted into August (though not hard as official announcements date from the 1950s). The rainy season this year lasted for 54 days, which by anyone's reckoning is pretty long. So now it is 31 degrees, sunny with 47% humidity (which is quite low really).

Another thing the article said in the paper, was that there is an internal rule at the Met offoce which states that the end of the rainy season must be announced before the official start of Autumn. All well and good, I hear you say. Well yes, except the official start of Autumn is August 8th...

I find this strange as the 30+degree days will last well into September and Autumn - red leaves, crisp mornings etc - is a wish away in Novemeber at least. So what is going on? Well, it is all to do with the old Japanese calender.

Japan adopted the Gregorian Calender, like the rest of the world. But I don't think they really trust it and so kind of acknowledge its existence to the rest of the world, play along with it, but really follow the old Japanese one because, well, it is more Japanese for a start. So you get all these weird things like the start of Autumn is August 8th, palpably not Autumn in the slightest. Then you get special food days. July 27th was Eel day, and all the supermarkets had huge displays of Eel for sale - and the even better thing was that far from pushing up the price on this one day to take advantage, the Eel everywhere was really really cheap. A loss leader, maybe, but good news all the same. This kind of thing also accounts for the 'auspicious' days on which to get married - and conversely there are really bad days to get married as well. Apparently this all comes from the days when Japan was a much more agrarian place and the year was shaped by the seasons (don't even bother trying to tell a Japanese farmer this is the same all over the world - they will not believe you) and therefore the day autumn started was important for rice growing, or eel catching, or perhaps something else. As a result all Japanese have grown up using this calander and not really bothering with the western one. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised to find out that the Gregorian calender was foisted upon the Japanese by the Americans after their defeat in WW2 and the top brass said something along the lines of "yeah, yeah, a calender, fine, whatever" whilst the average chap in what was left of the street said, "okay, will it tell me when Eel Day is? No, well I don't really think I'll be using it too much then. I have to!? Yeah, yeah, fine, whatever".

Unfortunately the newspapaer article did not say what would happen if the rainy season didn't end before August 8th. Would they declare it over even if it wasn't? Wouldn't this confuse a lot of farmers? Who knows?

Anyway, I'm off to check my Japanese diary as I have a strong suspicion that Sunday 3rd August may well be beer and yakitori day...

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