The Sounds of Summer

A cicada that almost became an accessory to my shoe

Summer in Japan is hot and humid. The temperature does not vary significantly between day and night. Being a simple man I like the fact that for the last three months, no matter the time of day, all I’ve needed is a T-shirt, shorts and a pair of Crocs. Barring indecency, dressing doesn’t get much simpler.

For the last couple of months the stillness of the evening has been pierced by the loud clicking of cicadas and the croaking of frogs in the adjacent rice field. These are the sounds of summer in semi-rural Japan. (There’s a Japanese pun in there if you’re a particularly astute student of Japanese!) The cicada in particular is pretty loud. Some cicadas can produce sound of up to 120dB SPL which The Internets reliably informs me is the “threshold of discomfort”, or as Australians like to classify it, “bloody loud”.

One can take some quiet sadistic satisfaction, however, upon learning that the life cycle of a cicada is kind of tragic. Just like the Spice Girls at the London Olympics, cicadas emerge after many years of being underground, make a lot of noise in a short space of time, and then, within a week, disappear into eternity.

Rainy Season Precipitates Precipitation

We’re a couple of weeks into this year’s rainy season, which will last until mid-July. Although it doesn’t rain every day, the weather is generally wet, humid and muggy. Typhoons usually start rolling north-easterly towards the archipelago at the end of the rainy season, but this year we’re getting an early visitor. At midnight tonight Typhoon No. 4 will pass over the Tokai area. Winds in the eye of the storm are currently gusting to 126km/hour. Typhoon No. 5 is hot on its heels, and is currently expected to arrive around Friday, although whether it will come by this part of Japan remains to be seen.

Today our eldest son was sent home from Nursery School early, much to his surprise and delight. We’ve shuttered the large windows at home and are hoping for the best with regard to this year’s rice crop that has just been planted.

As you can see, typhoons are numbered rather than named in Japan. This helps avoid the feeling that one’s close friend (who happens to be called Katrina or Tracy) might be somehow responsible for misery, death and destruction. How thoughtful.

Typhoon No. 4
Typhoon No. 4. projected course. Source: Yahoo! Japan

Annular Eclipse 2012

We were blessed to experience a pretty cool eclipse this morning. Nagoya was within the path of annularity (I had to look that up!) which meant we were able to view the sun as a “ring of fire” around a silhouette of the moon. We viewed it using a pinhole projector made from an old shoebox. In contrast, Nicewife’s dad decided the best way to view it was to look directly at the sun… We’re expecting him to need new glasses by tomorrow.

The Japanese word for eclipse is made of the characters 日食 which literally mean “eat the sun”. Kinda neat, eh. Nicewife’s 95 year old grandma doesn’t understand science – she proclaimed that the sun god had an illness. A very beautiful illness.

So here’s the picture:


Annular Eclipse
Annular Eclipse from our home just outside Nagoya


There ‘snow snow in Adelaide

Position of Adelaide and Nagoya
Relative Positions of Adelaide and Nagoya

Nagoya’s location almost exactly mirrors that of my hometown of Adelaide. Nagoya is 35 North, 136 East. Adelaide is 35 South 139 East. This means that if you draw a line extending directly north from Adelaide it will pass through this part of Japan, and it is the same distance to the equator from either city.

Given that we have relatively mild winters in Adelaide and we never get any snow, it always surprises me how much snow we get in Japan. In northern Nagahama in Shiga, where I used to live, the local residents woke up to 80cm of snow this morning. Here we only had about 15cm, but the boys still enjoyed their first experience of playing in the snow.



Typhoon 15

Like a fart in an elevator, Typhoon 15 has been just hanging around south of Okinawa for the last few days. You can see on the graphic below that it has travelled very slowly in a complete circle over the ocean, and has now started heading for the main Japanese island of Honshu.

Typhoon Forecast

The current location is marked by the solid red circle – the dotted circles show the projected path. According to the latest forecast the eye of the storm will pass right over Nagoya, at around noon tomorrow. That’s represented by the red dot on the graphic above. At that stage it will be moving slowly North-east at only 30km an hour, with wind speeds somewhere between 108 and 162 km/h. Gentlemen – time to hold onto your toupees!

The worst case forecast is for around 400mm of rain over today and tomorrow – this is almost as much rain as falls in an entire year in my hometown of Adelaide! When I left home today Nicewife’s mum was cleaning out the loft so that we could “live up there” if the ground floor of the house floods. I asked her if she’d ever had to do that before in her 30 years of living in that house. She said no. Given that information, I don’t expect that we’ll have to “live up there”, but if it happens, I bet there’ll be no internet. Yeah, that and food.


UPDATE 21 September 8pm JST:

We didn’t have to live up in the loft after all, although Nicewife’s brother and his wife had to evacuate their apartment and stay with us overnight. The eye of the storm thankfully passed Nagoya to the south, thus we avoided the worst of the weather.

Radar picture of Typhoon 15
The radar just after the Typhoon passed Nagoya. The eye of the storm is marked with a black dot.

Summer Ain’t Over Yet

Hot September Day
Today's weather. 20% refers to the chance of rain, not the humidity.

I have a love-hate relationship with the Japanese summer. Summer, like our beleaguered Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is supposed to be over; but, also like Julia, it continues to stubbornly stick around.

My love-hate relationship can be summarised thus:


  • For about 3 to 4 months, at any time of the day or night, you only need a T-shirt.
  • Sitting outside on balmy summer evenings, listening to the sounds of small-town life.
  • The humidity in the air makes one’s skin feel soft and seems to relieve muscle pain.
  • Sleeping is difficult.
  • The humidity in the air makes one’s skin feel sticky.
  • At the slightest movement one sweats like George W Bush at a press conference. Yes, it really is that uncomfortable.