I loved your essay in the New Yorker.

Summer used to be my favorite season when I used to live in Eruope, but I never found it pleasant in Japan. As you mentioned, maybe it was back in the days, but nowadays Japanese cities are just not designed for summer. The lack of plants and every single empty space being covered with concrete or asphalt turns them into ovens. Seriously, I lived in Northern Florida, inland, where it was hotter than Japan, and it was not that bad... it took me years to understand why. There, there was grass everywhere in the streets, and trees providing shade almost everywhere. Here, no grass whatsoever, and the few trees are just sad trunks with three leaves providing no shade whatsoever, as branches are regularly cut)

Summer used to be the season when I would spend every possible minute outside, now it's the season when I spend the most time indoors, and it's so depressing.

And of course, the climate crisis is making everything worse.

Expand full comment
Aug 30Liked by Matt Alt

I read your New Yorker essay and it is an excellent piece of writing.

I’ve lived here in Japan for close to 35 years and have relished the seasonal focus of life. Although I’ve never been enamored of the hot, muggy summers, I do appreciate the sounds and tastes of the season.

I’m saddened by the negative impact climate change is having on seasonal traditions and our ability to enjoy outdoor life as we used to.

Expand full comment

When I lived in Japan, something that always struck me as strange was the Japanese idea that you should feel the seasons. If it's winter, you should feel the cold. In the middle of winter in Tokyo I would encounter Japanese businessmen shivering on train platforms who would greet me with "samui desu neh!". I was just polite enough to nod and suppress my urge to say, "Well, what do you expect wearing just a raincoat in this weather! I'm wearing a down jacket and don't feel cold at all -- you should try it."

This is probably related to the Japanese tolerance (at least south of Hokkaido) of uninsulated buildings that feel uncomfortable in winter no matter how much you heat them. It's winter; you're expected to feel the cold.

Of course, it could be that the more you feel things, the more sources for art and poetry. Certainly for me, whenever it's hot and humid the images from Ozu's evocations of summer life, and the wonderful descriptions by Donald Ritchie of summer in southern Japan come to mind more than any others.

Expand full comment