I used to think England had four seasons. Then I came to Japan, and discovered that although we think we do, compared to Japan, we don’t. We have closer to two; a cold wet winter, spring and autumn, and a warmer, but normally fairly wet summer.
Japan’s seasons are far more clear cut and extreme. It does vary some what depending on latitude, but here on Honshu, the largest of the Japanese archipelago, we have a cold snowy winter, a nice warm spring, a hot and unpleasantly humid summer, and then a refreshingly cool, but still pleasantly warm autumn.
The Japanese are very proud of their seasons and the changes associated with each one. It seems they are a lot more seasonal in many aspects of their lives. For example there is a defined mountain climbing season in spring and summer, swimming season from July to mid August and hanami (flower viewing) season in spring. Amusingly even if the weather remains perfect to facilitate an outdoor activity, to suggest a sea swim or a mountain hike outside of its predetermined season is just crazy talk... if it’s not the season, it’s not the done thing.
Foods are also very seasonal with many fruits and vegetables only being available at certain times. Right now we are mid kaki (persimmon) and satoimo (Japanese potato) season. However, even seemingly season-less snacks may not be available year round.
An example of this is the mahn Family. These are small, steamed, deliciously doughy snacks, with a variety of fillings. My favourite is the curry mahn, though when unavailable I will settle for the pizza mahn. Since my introductions to this glorious fodder, which can be bought from any convenience store (conbini) for a mere Y100 (50p), I have been a regular consumer and have spread the word to every gaijin I’ve ever met.
However, towards the end of the spring, I noticed that they were becoming scarce. At first I put it down to the shop running out of stock.
“Perhaps a delivery failed to get through’, I kept telling myself, “It’s nothing to worry about” I thought.
But as I found that other shops too, were beginning to become “ mahn-less” I began to fear something deeper was afoot, so I immediately contacted my right hand man and Japanese interpreter Brandon Wright and called for an investigation.
My worries were well founded. It was revealed that the curry mahn and his brothers pizza mahn and meat mahn are seasonal products, only available during the cooler months of the year. There seems to be no logistical reason for this, it’s not as if the curry mahn tress are only in bloom during these times, it’s just a tradition of some sort. However, I am happy to say that the mahn family is currently back in stock in all good conbinis.
Despite the Japanese touting their country as having four seasons, they actually have five. Their tourist propaganda fails to mention the rainy season, a few weeks at the end of June/start of July when the skies open and batter the lands with heavy tropical downpours. Generally, the Japanese don’t like this time of year but I really enjoyed it, as the earthy smells that fresh rain brings reminded me of being in England.
Over all, I prefer the climate of Japan to that of England. For starters they get a decent white winter, with plenty of snow from late December to early March which keeps the scenery stunning, and the ski areas topped up nicely. Then you get the perfect temperatures of spring and autumn, most of which is like a good English summer day, and are just right for outdoor activities such as camping, kayaking, hiking and biking. Summer is the only bad season; it’s too hot and too humid to want to spend much time outside of air-conditioned zones, and makes it hard to sleep at night.
However, I’m not complaining, three out of four ain’t bad.