August in Tokyo. Hot, hazy days with high humidity, and the air so thick with moisture that you feel like you need gills to breathe. Even though we are on the downside of summer with less than a month left before the autumnal equinox, it is still sweltering-ly hot. The temperatures have really not been that high, I guess — usually in the high 80’s/low 90’s during the day — but when combined with the humidity, the afternoon heat index is usually between 105 and 110. We all feel wilted and soggy with sweat. Most office buildings and apartments buildings don’t air condition hallways, lobbies and elevators, and my husband’s office only has the AC on between 8 am and 6 pm. Woe to anyone going in early or staying late!
Despite the uncomfortable heat, summer in Tokyo is full of activity. There are matsuri (festivals) almost every weekend, and many include nighttime fireworks displays. There are beer gardens set up in many of the parks, and street food vendors abound. August is vacation time for the local schools, so children are out and about, playing in the parks, riding bicycles, and running along the sidewalks.
I think I have mentioned before about how “sun-conscious” the Japanese are… even in this heat, many women wear long sleeves and long skirts or pants. Most wear hats to shield their faces, and often long finger-less gloves to protect their hands and arms from the sun. Umbrellas become more valuable providing shade than they are to keep the sparse rain off. I find that I think more about sun exposure now too. I wear more sunscreen here, and cover up more. The sun seems so intense here.
I have been staying inside a lot more than usual. Aside from my almost daily trip to the supermarket, I have stayed pretty close to home. It is just too hot to be out for very long. From my vantage point up here on the 30th floor of our apartment building, I notice that there are fewer people out walking during the day. Seems to be mostly people going to and from work. Early mornings and evenings see more pedestrian traffic, but the sidewalks are much less crowded during the middle of the day.
However, I can tell that the days are getting shorter — at summer solstice in June, the sun comes up in Tokyo at around 4:30 am, and now in late August, it doesn’t rise until after 5 am. And now — Japan does not have daylight savings time — the sun sets just after 6 pm.
Still, the heat is with us… at least for a few more weeks. We still try to get out on the weekends… sometimes just a walk along the canals to see the ducks, or to one of the parks. Here are some summertime photos from Tokyo…
Pretty summertime flowers
Spot-bill ducks and babies — and a Japanese Wagtail — along the canals