In some parts of Japan, it’s hard to get through the summer without air conditioning or a fan. Obviously, in times gone by, the Japanese didn’t have electrical appliances and had to come up with ingenious ways to cool off during the summer months. Some of these customs are still kept up today or still widely known. New customs have also arisen.
Yûsuzumi (夕涼み): in the evening, when it’s not so hot, the Japanese go outside to enjoy the fresh air and the sunset.
Suika (スイカ, watermelon): the round ones with dark stripes are the ones most commonly found in Japan. Some people also add salt to make them taste even sweeter.
Kakigôri (かき氷, shaved ice): it’s eaten with colourful syrups with flavours like strawberry, lemon, melon or green tea. People also add condensed milk, red mung bean paste, ice cream or little rice flour balls.
Unagi (鰻, eel): traditionally people thought that eating eel helped fight the tiredness brought on by the summer and heatwaves. The most popular way to prepare them is kabayaki, where they’re served with soy sauce, sweet sake and sugar, among other ingredients.
Karê (カレー, curry): it’s very popular in Japan and usually eaten with white rice. Supermarkets sell pre-prepared dehydrated sauces with different levels of spiciness to help people make the dish. It’s eaten throughout the year, but legend has it that eating spicy food makes us sweat which helps us cool down and handle the heat better.
Sômen, hiyamugi (素麺、冷や麦): these are two types of thin flour noodles that are eaten cold, usually in the summertime. Sômen are less than 1.3 mm in diameter, hiyamugi are between 1.3 and 1.7 mm and udon are more than 1.7 mm (Japan Federation of Dry Noodle Manufacturers Associations: http://www.kanmen.com/topic/04_chigai.html).
Kaidan (怪談, horror stories or mysteries): these stories bring people out in cold sweats and help cool them down. There’s also the kimodameshi, a test of courage, to see who is willing to go into a place they’re scared of. They usually take place at night and often involve people trying to startle the person taking the test.
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