I think July was the worst month for humid heat when I lived in Kyoto. That’s not to say that August was much better, but by the end of August you could feel a whispering of aki in the air. I wonder if that still holds true.
Of course I had no air conditioner in the 1970’s. I depended on a fan kept within a foot of me when I was in my geshuku room. And I’d hightail it out to get some kakigōri at the peak of the day. Back then there wasn’t the enormous variety that you see now. It was simply strawberry, lemon, and a Kyoto speciality of Uji green tea with either dango or anko or both. That one was always more expensive and seemed very extravagant to me.
I also was grateful for all the hankachi I had to daintily (?) pat the sweat from my face. I never once had to buy a handkerchief because they were such a common gift. You always had to carry one because public bathrooms had no paper towels or other devices for drying your hands. For that matter, toilet paper could be iffy as well, so you’d always have both a hankachi and a packet of tissues in your bag. Since tissue packets were given out at train stations with ads written on them, you never really had to buy those either… at least not in Tokyo.
Commuting to work by jitensha was definitely a plus in the summer. Kyoto is pretty flat and you’d feel the wind on you as your pedaled. And upon arriving home, I’d head for the public bath each night and then turn on the fan and lay out my futon, of course with just a taoruketto in the summer.
I still love my taoruketto and think it is one of the better ways to sleep on a hot summer night!
- aki – 秋 autumn
- geshuku – 下宿 boarding house. Rare, these days, but poor students usually lived in these. It would usually be one room, a shared toilet area and a nearby public bath.
- kakigōri – かき氷 shaved ice. Nothing like a snowcone though. We’re talking major upgrade from that!
- dango – だんご dumpling. In this case they are small white mochi-like dumplings.
- anko -あんこ red bean paste
- hankachi – ハンカチ handkerchief. Very popular in Japan. I wonder why we Americans don’t use them as much.
- jitensha – 自転車 bicycle
- taoruketto – タオルケット a summer blanket made out of cotton towel material. They are wonderful on a hot summer’s night and are often given as gifts.