Rainy season has ended, which means heat, humidity and stifling city air. But somehow, summer in Japan should not have to mean locking yourself in the house, with the air-con blasting, hiding from the scorching Tokyo temperature.
Our city has lots to offer, in the summer especially, and it’s possible to escape the mugginess and survive the summer without going too far.
Sand in your hair:
At some of the beaches around Tokyo, you won’t even be able to put your towel down but, there is always a party to be had. If having perhaps one too many drinks alongside half of Shibuya in the scorching sun is for you, you have options. Just watch where you step, those lifeguards police the beach with an iron fist – and a pretty noisy Tannoy!
Hayama Isshiki is the Emperor’s beach of choice; he even has a winter holiday home there. It’s popular for windsurfing and kayaking and you can often catch live music on the waterfront. To get there: Take the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line to Zushi and change on to a Keikyu Bus.
Onjuku boasts some of the whitest of sand in the area and could just be the best option in Chiba prefecture. Rent a bike and ride through town but make sure you stop to try the town’s specialties, spiny lobster and abalone. Also, check out the fully kitted out ‘surfers’, bobbing around in the ‘swell’… To get there: Take the JR Sobu Line to Chiba and Change to JR Sotobo Line to Onjuku Station.
Zushi may sometimes seem like it brings together the entire youth culture of Shibuya 109 on a beach – and this one is more for partying than relaxation by the sea. To get there: Take the JR Shonan-Shinjuku Line to Zushi.
‘Sarushima’ literally means Monkey Island. Although there are no monkeys in sight (the name, apparently, stems from the story of a local priest, led to the island by a white monkey), the sand is grey and grainy, perfect for sandcastles. Rent a barbecue and make sure to try the local brew, Sarushima Beer; or even climb up to the old WWII artillery positions for a great view of the bay. To get there: Keihin Kyuko Line to Yokosuka, then ferry to Sarushima.
If you’re spending time with little ones this summer and don’t fancy going near the sea, pay a visit to one of Tokyo’s water parks – but beware: these places get seriously crowded!
Many public parks across the city open their jyabu-jyabu ponds (kids’ splash and paddling pools) every summer. Rishi-no-Mori park, in Meguro Ward, a former research forest turned public park, opens its splash pond in July and August from 10am to 3pm. Showa Kinen Park in Tachikawa also has a large water play plaza as well as a barbecue area, rental bikes, a bird sanctuary and a nature walk.
Get your kit on:
Enjoying summer is not all about where you go; think about what you wear too and you will enjoy the season in style. Stay cool with lightweight fabrics such as linen and natural blends like cotton and pure silk, whilst keeping up with the style trends from the runways for summer 2012:
For women, summer attire is very feminine this year – think florals, candy pastel hues, sheer and lace – as opposed to last summer’s boyish looks. Head-to-toe prints are all over the runways and hopefully out on the streets; the keyword to keep in mind is overlay.
Leather over lace, lace over sequins, plastic over everything. The twenties are also experiencing a revival, with palettes of white, gold and metallics. Neon nails, mint accents, sun-kissed glow, rose lips and braided hair are 2012 musts.
From the cool box:
The borderline toxic combination of highly concentrated syrup and shaved ice, kakigori, will always be a favourite of some, but why not try a tapioca tea this summer? Hailing from Taiwan, it is popping up all over Tokyo. It’s often dubbed ‘pearl tea’ due to the tapioca balls your jumbo straw will encounter at the bottom of the drink; try a classic milk tea with coloured tapioca for true effect but even this could be an ‘acquired taste’ – or indeed texture…
A few centuries ago, an enterprising eel restaurant owner in Tokyo began touting the energizing effects of eating the slithery creatures in summer. Soon enough, he had managed to establish the tradition of eating eel on a certain day every year.
That day, douyou ushi no hi, falls this year on July 27th. It may simply have been a marketing masterstroke but there could actually be something in the tradition: eel is rich in vitamin B1, easily lost through sweating.
Maybe grab some somen wheat noodles served with a cold dipping sauce – another food traditionally thought to be cooling. Wash it down with a glass of hiyashi ame, a summer drink made with iced black tea, sugar and ginger.
Enjoy the heat, embrace the summer and keep your spirits up. Look around you – Tokyo is resplendent in this season and there are so many exciting things to do. Don’t just wish away the season, get out there!
by Annamarie Sasagawa and Vivian Morelli
Click here and ‘flick’ to page 22 to see how this piece looked in our magazine.