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NIPPONIA No.34 September 15, 2005

Cooling the summer heat and enjoying the autumn colors, the traditional way
Furin are hung near a window or door, to catch the summer breezes and tinkle out sounds that make us feel just a little bit cooler.
The hot and humid days of summer will come, but there are traditional ways to create an atmosphere of cool comfort: the tinkle of the furin bell hanging and fluttering in the breeze; goldfish swimming in a glass bowl; water sprinkled on the shimmering garden ground and the hot veranda. The garden trees and plants thrive in the heat, but we can overcome it with some old and wise customs. Unlined cotton yukata are cooler than their heavier kimono cousins. Bare feet slip into geta wooden sandals for clickety-clacking outside. In rural areas, watching fireflies, and maybe catching some, are two more ways to help us forget the heat of June nights.
Mid-summer night skies are brightened with multi-color fireworks. Beginning in the Edo period (1603-1867), one of the joys of summer was huge firework shows, and today we enjoy them in cities, towns and villages throughout the country, each place offering something different to compete with the others. These events attract huge crowds — locals, former residents back home for the holidays, and tourists.
The archipelago is decorated with waterfalls, some majestic, some intimate. Kegon Falls at Nikko and Nachi Falls in Wakayama are perhaps the best of the many spots where cascading water invites us to cool off and regain our energy. Teahouses and traditional inns with views of the falls offer a break from our regular routine.
Next comes autumn, another time to think about going into the country to enjoy nature with our eyes. This time we will feast on the reds and yellows of maples and other trees, not the blossoms of cherry trees. And yet the feeling of anticipation is similar as we wait for the leaves to turn on mountain slopes and in steep-walled valleys. Old, historic temples and shrines are popular spots for travelers searching for special moments near an old Buddhist statue or some charming artwork.
Autumn evenings are a time to admire the moon and have moon-viewing parties, or to listen to the enchanting sounds of insects like matsu-mushi crickets and suzu-mushi. Enthusiasts keep suzu-mushi in cages at home, to enjoy one of nature's beautiful sounds ringing through the night.


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