Summer has come. Japan has four seasons and we enjoy the changing seasons. In summer, it is very hot and humid. Therefore Japanese has been devised ways of avoiding discomfort. Japanese summer goods appeal to our sence of eye, smell, hearing, touch and make us cool. Make you cool with Japanese traditional summer clothes, interior, wind bell sounds, or any other items we present here and discover the Japanese traditional wisdom.
1. Yukata - The Yukata is a casual light cotton kimono for wearing in summer. Yukatas normally have very brightly coloured designs on them. Japan is one of the few modern countries where the traditional dressing is still “trendy”. Today we wear Yukata and go to the traditional Bon-Odori, summer festivals and fireworks shows. The relative simply design of Yukata means Japanese women can, with some practice, put this kimono on unassisted.
During the Heian period (8 to 11th century), the nobles wore yukatabira (yu - bath and katabira - under clothing) after taking a bath. In time, the term shortened to yukata.
Later, the wariors also started to wear yukata, and during the Edo period, when the public baths become very popular, the yukata became widely worn by the public.
2. Furin （風鈴）- Japanese summer bell
In the old times, before the air conditioning, the Japanese people developed traditional ways to help cooling off during hot summer days… One very interesting technique, still largely practiced, is the use of the traditional furin. It is usually made of glass, ceramic or metal. It has a clapper with a string and a rectangular card.
In Japan, the furin is a very popular item during summer and is usually hung from the eaves of a house or in front of the windows. The distinctive sound of the wind chime signifies a breeze, providing some psychological relief from the intensely hot and humid summer. These wind-bells give poetic charm to the Japanese summers. There is also a fancy strip of paper called tanzaku that hangs from the bell’s clapper. When a breeze comes, the tanzaku swings and causes the clapper to hit the bell. This results in the bell’s ringing.
3. Sensu (holding fan) & Uchiwa – The history of the fan is not at all clear-cut. When you think of how simple the basic idea is, a tool that is a bit more efficient than a hand waved in front of the face, it is obvious that the fan is likely one of those inventions that sprang up at around the same time in most civilizations on the earth – at least the ones in warmer climates. The fan that symbolized position, and expressed personality, however, the fan that was art, seems to have developed in the East.
One early form appeared in Kyoto, in the ninth century, when the cost of paper was prohibitive. Ordinary records and such were kept on thin slats of wood (the kind you might see today being burned as votive offerings in some Japanese temples). It seems that someone got the idea of binding a number of slats together at one end and running a string through them at the other, thus creating a crude, but effective sensu.
The uchiwa has become a symbol of the Japanese summer and can often be seen with its wooden or bamboo handle stuck into the sash at the back of a light cotton kimono or even a pair of jeans. They are often painted or printed with designs that suggest cooling breezes or streams, or the flowers of summer. Uchiwa are also a popular advertising handout in Japan. They are made, in that incarnation from paper or plastic, with more garish illustrations, and often a hole in the covering material in lieu of a handle.
4. Uchimizu （打ち水）- a typical Japanese traditional custom which consists in splashing water over the pavement in front of the stores, houses, shrines, temples or inside the Japanese gardens. Traditionally, uchimizu is done by using a bucket and a wooden ladle, by people dressed in the traditional yukata. An interesting detail is that the water used for uchimizu is not tap water, but recycled or rain water.
Now ? We use a little bit more technologies to survive the heat of summer. These are just a few examples of modern summer items.
1. Cool Mattress Pads - Japan sells these cooling pads to go on top of your mattress. It keeps you cool while you sleep. An alternative to this is to fill Hot Water Bottles with Ice Water, wrap them in cloth and put them in your bed. Nothing like a cool-refreshing sleep to leave you recharged and ready to go.
2. Aisunon (An ice scarf) – Japan sells these re-freezable ice packs (AISUNON or アイスノン) that fit inside of this cloth sleeve that goes around your neck. It does help quite bit.
3. Higasa (Anti UV parasol) - Anti-UV parasols from Japan are exquisitely beautiful yet practical products that provide protection from damaging ultraviolet radiation, relief from the hot sun, and protection from light rain showers. These parasols have been crafted using a stunning range of fabrics, styles, embroideries, lace and other intricate embellishments.
Can you imagine ever using a parasol as a form of sunblock? Parasol usage is far from exclusive to Japan; it’s prevalent all over Japan, a country where having milky skin has been hailed as the ultimate sign of beauty since who knows when.