One thing is for sure about living in Japan, the summers are long, the summers are hot, and the summers aren’t always pleasant.
The heat and humidity for those who live pretty much anywhere in Tokyo or south of Tokyo can make for a hot, sticky and distinctly uncomfortable experience.
So, it may come as no surprise to anyone who has experienced this extreme summer sun that a great many of us who live here in Japan are breathing a collective sigh of relief at the beginning of autumn and the inevitably cooler climate to come.
With these more temperate conditions comes a renewed enthusiasm and eagerness to get active, as the summer malaise finally begins to wane.
Contrary to many other countries, where summer is the catalyst for increased physical activity and a consequent drop in weight and increase in fitness, I have found that in Japan the opposite tends to apply as people become lazy, surly and apathetic under the blazing summer sun.
So, now that the heat and humidity have begun to subside, what shall we do now?
Here’s my top 5 things to do now that summer is over.
1) Go for a walk!
Photo : Giampaolo Macorig on FlickrIt is often said, though seldom remembered, by experts, that running a mile uses just as much energy or calories as running a mile does. So if you want to stay in shape and maybe work off some of that summer beer garden excess, then why not get those training shoes on, fire up your mp3 player and go for a walk.
From my own point of view I love nothing better than listening to a good audio book as I walk around the tranquil streets of southern Osaka in the early evening. If you’re feeling generous why not stop off for a coffee en route? Nothing is more relaxing than enjoying a good tea or coffee in a quiet café after a nice walk, and that extra caffeine hit will help to fuel you on the walk back home too.
2) Take up a new sport!
Photo : Luca Mascaro on FlickrIf there’s one thing there’s no shortage of in Japan, its sports clubs. From Karate to Kendo, from Tennis to Tae Kwon Do, there are classes for everyone. From my own point of view, I hope that this autumn I can get back into my two former favourite hobbies from my university days, Kendo and Tae Kwon Do. I haven’t stepped into the Doojang (Tae Kwon Do gym) since I was 22.
However, I’ve recently discovered that this sport has far more followers in Japan than I had previously known, and there’s even a school just about 20 minutes or so from my house. As for Kendo, well it goes without saying that there are literally thousands of Kendo dojos dotted all across Japan. Whether you are in a rural or urban setting, a quick visit to your local community centre or city ward office will probably give you plenty of options for getting into Kendo, as well as a host of other Japanese sports.
3) Make a plan for the next year and beyond
Photo : Dafne Cholet on FlickrFor Japanese people the autumn is an important time for reflection and self-evaluation. With that in mind, it’s also a good time for us to look back, reflect on what we have accomplished this year and what we hope to achieve in the remainder of the year and into next year. Are you happy with your current job? Could you do with a change of scenery? Is it time to consider perhaps studying again to “level up” as the Japanese are so often heard saying in their mis-appropriated katakana English.
Studying in Japan for a higher qualification or even just to acquire a new skill could be a great way not only to finally shake of that debilitating summer malaise but also to improve your lot here in Japan.
4) Take your Japanese to the next level
Photo : Toby Oxborrow on FlickrIt was in September of last year that I finally made the decision to get serious about studying Japanese language and I enrolled in a course. This culminated last December in my finally getting my first official Japanese language certification when I passed the N5 JLPT exam. Not only did this help me to better enjoy and appreciate my life in Japan, it also gave me a newfound appreciation for study and the benefits one can acquire from seeking to better one’s self. It has also fueled my desire to go deeper into my language studies, in the hope of getting the N2 or even N1 certificate someday.
5) Shake up your social scene
Photo : liu.lichia on FlickrWith the beer gardens winding down, and the temptation to go for that “pint after work” (which is seldom if ever just a solitary pint by the way!) no longer as strong, sometimes social circles can deteriorate and friendships fade as the summer party season winds down.
Rather than see this as a bad thing, see at as the catalyst to expand your horizons, go out and do new things, meet new people. As I said before, to many Japanese the time from September until year’s end is a time for great introspection and self-reflection. This re-evaluation often expands beyond not just work, career and education but also into friendships, relationships and social circles. In other words, if you’re looking to meet new friends, find a new relationship or perhaps just meet some like-minded people, this is the best time of year to do it.
Autumn is a time of transition in Japan. As the weather transcends from hot into cold, and light into dark, so to do the minds of those around us go into a state of flux. For some this instability can be unnerving, even scary. I however see it not as a failing but as an opportunity. Autumn is the perfect time to reinvent yourself. Is there something in Japan Japan you haven’t done yet? Then go and do it! Is there a place you want to see or visit? Then go there. Whatever you do, wherever you do it, make it count. Because we never know when the next autumn may be our last.