Tuesday, July 04, 2006


The Japanese have this big fascination with the four seasons. They take such pride in the cycles of nature that it is almost as if they've cornered the market on it. Nobody appreciates the seasons as much as the Japanese! No one has such a wunnlafool spling or wintah or summah or fallu! It borders on retardaculous. It occasionally gets on my nerves.

Anywhere you go, people always ask "Where are you from?" In NORMAL countries, this is then followed by "What brings you here?" However, in Japan, land of used-panty/porn vending machines, fifty ways of sorting trash, and squid-and-corn pizza, the next question almost always is: "Do you have four seasons?"

WTF! Okay, so some places don't have four seasons. I'll give them that, but really, the implication is "Do you have four seasons of Japanese Quality? I bet not." In case you were wondering, Japanese Quality Seasons mean: Fucking Cold Winter, Fucking Rainy Spring, How the Fuck could Someplace so Cold in Winter has such a Fucking Hot Humid Summer(!), Fall with Fucking Oban and every Fucking thing in Japan Fucking Shutting Down for a Fucking Week, so Fucking Forget about Getting Any Fucking Thing Fucking Done, m'kay?

When I first got here, I would say I was from Buffalo, New York and (after explaining no, it's not NYC and yes, NYC is like TOKYO, except with less good manners and even less squid) and tell them "We only have two seasons-winter and road repair. Alas, this joke was lost of the oft-literal minded Japanese, mostly because they do road work year-round. Yes, even in winter, under seventeen feet of snow. Seriously. They would feel sorry for the poor gaijiin, hailing from a hometown that only had two seasons. I got tired of following up with "Jordan desu, jordan desu!" (it's a joke, a joke). So I just would say, yes, yes, we have four seasons and no, we don't put corn and/or squid on our pizza during any of them.
After being here for two years/eight seasons, something ocurred to me yesterday,while looking out the window at the rain that had been coming down nonstop for almost seventy-two hours-- the Japanese may not realize it, but they really have six seasons. They even a special word for those two "mini-seasons." Start with Haru (Spring), then you get Tsuyu (Rainy Season aka The WHOLE FUCKING MONTH OF JUNE and a GOOD PART OF JULY) then Natsu (Summer), then Aki (Autumn) then Tsuyu again, then Fuyu (Winter). Ah, but you say, what's the difference between Haru Tsuyu and Aki Tsuyu? I'd rather get caught in a Haru Tsuyu rain, which is drizzly, falling-straight-down affair and sometimes is even warm, than the Aki one, since it is like being machine-gunned with very cold liquid bullets and as anyone, even a bakagaijin, knows, umbrellas don't stop bullets.
My kimono sensei describes Spring Tsuyu rain as "Tsu tsu" and Fall Tsuyu as "ZaaaZaaa!" Zaa Zaa is a stronger onomatopoeia, indicative of more of a drenching, penetrating type of rain. Oh shut up. I'm in a land where they think pigs go "buu" instead of "oink", so it makes perfect sense that a autumnal monsoon goes "ZaaZaa". Actually I love the plethora of onomatopoeia in the Japanese language, aside from sounding cool, their usage in conversation makes me seem more pera pera (fluent) than I really am, but that's something to write about at another time.
So about Spring: Early Spring is Cherry Blossom and Cherry Blossom Viewing Party season, which has degenerated from the pastime of royalty to an excuse to sitting on a blue tarp in a park with seventy jillion like-minded Japanese and getting drunk off your ass. Late spring, as you've deduced, is rainy. Late spring is also Bug Season. Gazillions of spiders, crickets and the ocassional mukade (a big-ass, poisonious centipede the size of those ropes you used to have to climb in gym class) invade my home. Chris and I take turns working Insect Escort, armed with a broom and a dust pan. We try to be humane, but we end up with more war dead than we do freed POW's, but not for lack of trying. Genji the Cat gains ten pounds from the 24-hour mushi viking (bug buffet) and spews at least that much gero (vomit) from eating those bugs which are poisonous. After Bug Season and the ensuing Clean Up Cat Gero Season, comes Fungal Season--the mold appears. It shows up everywhere, books, shoes, walls, the cat, everything can (and does) get moldy. It's a war in here and I follow a bleached-earth policy-- I basically hose everything down with a mixture of Clorox and water, applied with one of those two gallon garden sprayers. It's my own personal Oriental Apocalypse Now and I love the smell of Sodium Hypochlorite in the morning (and afternoon and evening). The smell drives Chris right out of the house, but this can sometimes be considered a benefit.
Then somebody flips the hot/humid switch and without warning summer really begins. Last year, on July 7th, I was wearing a sweatshirt. By July 10, I was trying to wear as little as possible without getting arrested. That's just how it works, via a switch. Honest. Summers in Misawa are hot and short (like me!). It tends to be humid and if you are a gaijin, you spend an inordinate amount of time sweating, like Kelly (28 june 06 entry). In addtion to failing to understand why a place so cold in the winter gets so hot in the summer, I also fail to comprehend the reason why the Japanese don't seem to get the schvitz as badly as we do.
I'll write about Fall and Winter some other time. This is getting long and boring.
Despite all the meteorolgical vargaries, trials, and tribulations, the Japanese NEVER complain about the weather (it's okay, the 'Mericans make up for it). My first summer in Misawa (04), there were two weeks in August that were record-breakers. Temps from about 100 to 110 Farenheit for two weeks running. Unheard of. By way of practicing my Japanese I would say "Otenki ga atsui, desu neh?" (It's hot, isn't it?) Most of the answers were "Chotto." (a little bit). The closest I ever heard to a complaint was "This is very unusual." No, 110 in the shade is not unusual, IT'S FUCKING HOT!

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