Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Take-over Wednesday: Of Fire & Ice & Wind & Rain

Adam here again, taking over Cheree's blog to tell you another story of my life over in Japan.
Sometimes living in a foreign country is like living on an alien planet. In your homeland you get used to things being a certain way, but as soon as you go elsewhere you’ll find that things are hardly ever simple. The weather is always going to be unpredictable, but at least at home it’s an unpredictable that you are familiar with.

I moved from a dry desert country in the southern hemisphere to a muggy wetland in the northern, so there’s a lot of getting used to. For starters the seasons are reversed. I’m used to September being my much beloved Spring, instead here it turns to Autumn, so what is for me usually a warm and lively season becomes a cold and bitter one instead.

Technically speaking, Japan has 24 seasons called (Jun) which last around ten days a piece, all of which have unique and varied characteristics, but just like Australia (which technically has 5) and many other countries around the world, they make use of the standard four season naming practice for simplicity’s sake. Summer and Winter are the two high points of each year regardless of how you wish to call them.

Summers here can get a bit hot, but while everyone is busy exclaiming あついよ (Atsui yo “It’s hot!”), I’m chilling easy because hot here and hot in Australia are two different beasts. When I left Australia, we were in the midst of a record breaking heatwave of up to 50°c, which is hot enough to melt roads. So yeah, not really bothered by heat here. I actually enjoy the Summers here. One of the best days I’ve had was sitting in a McDonalds that had a broken air conditioner, it made me feel right at home, like I was back in Australia. The biggest problem with Summer here is that it is so humid. No matter where you go you wind up drenched in sweat before too long.

On the other hand, Winters here are ridiculously cold. I do not like snow. I once spent a hellish two weeks working at an Australian ski lodge (yes, they do exist) and, aside from wanting to murder several of the noisier people I had to bunk with, it left me with a deep passionate hatred of snow. It’s like sand, but cold. It gets everywhere and after the first fifteen seconds of ‘ooh, isn’t it pretty?’, it gets to be very annoying. In winter here, it snows A LOT. Either I have the worst luck on the planet or the weather here hates me, because I keep getting hit with record snow storms wherever I am. I am not kidding. A couple of years ago, Cheree and I were touring Japan and in that small window of time Tokyo was hit by a massive blizzard. We lucked out and were in Kyoto that day, but still slim odds that we were in the country when it happened.

Don’t believe that? Try this one, last year I was living in Yamanashi (near Mt. Fuji) and we got hit with a ridiculous amount of snow. It lasted for several weeks and everyone kept commenting on how they’d never seen so much snow before. One of the teachers even lost a car because their garage collapsed under it all. People here, having gone through a few major disasters already, are rather quick to panic at any sign of the abnormal. I’ve spoken before on the wonders of Conbini, but once panic shopping begins it doesn’t take long before the stores wind up as ghost towns. Making the mistake of living off Conbini meals and impulse snacks, I was dismayed to see the steadily dwindling supplies each time I entered. It started with the readymade food and bread, then all the ramen, then all the basic elements of food, then all the party snacks, then whatever wasn’t bolted down, then whatever was. It got so bad that there were rumours of rescue choppers preparing to make supply drops. At the time I had plenty of food in the house, unfortunately 90% of it required the basic element of electricity to prepare and with rolling blackouts it did get pretty dicey. I have since learnt my lesson, and have a cache of survival food ready in waiting. Just in case.

To compound matters, there is also an entirely unique Japanese season. 梅雨(Tsuyu) or Rainy Season.  As I said earlier, I come from a desert land so I’m not used to seeing so much rain at once. Just days and days of falling rain at the turn of the season. You get a lot of 台風(Taifuu) or Typhoons during the Rainy Season. Severe wind and rain ranging from seemingly endless rain to full-on hurricanes. As a matter of fact we’ve got a major one barreling down on us right now, registered as the most powerful storm on the planet all year. I’ve been lucky so far and all the typhoons have petered out before reaching my location but you can’t dodge every bullet.

That being said, it’s not all doom and gloom over here. I can happily confirm that Spring here is exactly like the Anime said it would be. When the Sakura trees are in bloom, you are treated to an awe-inspiring sight. Everywhere you go pretty pink petals are raining from the sky, and it is enough just to be able to watch it happen. I’ve spent ages just sitting around watching the surreal dance of falling petals and no matter how many times I see it, it is still a marvel to behold.


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