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.


The Boys Kitted Out for Summer Festival

the boys in yukata
The Boys in their Yukatas

Summer in Japan is festival season. The days are hot and humid and the evenings are pretty much the same (except just a little less hot). It thus figures that the best time to hold an outdoor festival is in the evening when the temperature has dropped a little.

There are fireworks, traditional dancing, taiko drumming, stalls selling festival food and cold beer, and locals dressed in traditional costume. In some ways it reminds me of a Scottish Ceilidh (dinner dance), which provides the rare occasion for everyone to dress in kilts and dance the night away.

Of course wearing a kilt in the traditional manner at close to 60 ° North is quite a different climatic experience to wearing a Yukata on a balmy summer evening in Japan.

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.