What do you do? Groan? Pull your hair out? Point out that your home country does, too? Play devil's advocate and ask what about the wet season? I've done all of the above!
But the longer I live here the more I'm beginning to think there is something special about the seasons here. When I say Japan has four seasons I don't mean the country (although obviously that's true, too!) But I think Japanese culture has four seasons in a way other cultures don't.
Traditionally and historically of course there are seasonal styles in kimono, ikebana flower arrangements, decorative calligraphy scrolls, traditional sweets and even tableware. While many of these things are now relegated to the history books there are a myriad of subtler, smaller ways in which the seasons influence our lives here.
Ever write a letter in Japanese? The first two lines always make some reference to the seasons. Stuck for what to say? Check the inside back cover of your letter pad for a list of suggestions. While most of us don't wear kimono anymore the seasons still affect what we wear. The most obvious way is koromogae- the seasonal changing of uniforms at kindergartens, schools and companies nationwide. And if you're a good housewife you do it for your family, too. ;) Still think you're not affected? Try buying a shirt in pastel blue, pink or white in Autumn or winter!
It starts young, too. M goes to the local public kinder. She has a song for every month and sometimes more than one. Songs about tulips, cherry blossom, tadpoles, frogs, boy's day, girl's day, sunflowers, dragonflies, pill beetles (really!), acorns, falling leaves, snow and then back to tulips again. Phew!! And it's not just the songs, there's 'Let's find Spring/ Summer/ Autumn/ Winter' walks with each kid carrying a bag to collect what they find to take home. The seasons make there way inside the classroom as well with decorations made by both teachers and kids changing each season.
But for greedy gastronome me, the most exciting way to experience the seasons is at the supermarket. Every season has it's 'THIS SEASON ONLY!' beer/ chocolate/ candy/ premixed drinks etc. I'm a huge Rummy fan so I love winter for that if nothing else. :) Of course it's not just the processed food, ;P all the fresh produce has a season, too. I know that's universal but I swear living in Australia I didn't notice. I'm sure apples were available year round, along with oranges, bananas, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers etc etc. Now I'm living among orchardists and market gardeners and it's ALL about the seasons. Plum, apricot, peach, cherry, watermelon, tomato, kiwifruit, grape, and apple all have their season. Each seasonal fruit is further broken down into early, regular and late season varieties. And even if they could find each fruit or vegetable out of season they wouldn't eat them anyway. It's all about shun no mono, seasonal produce in season. Saury, salmon, chestnuts and mushrooms in Autumn, tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants and mackerel in Summer etc etc. It makes winter pretty bleak with endless reworkings of daikon, hakusai and leek!
So yeah, Japan has four seasons. Just look around you. And try some of that Rummy!
Autumn for dinner. Potato, onion, carrot, chingensai, salmon and corn cooked in milk and water. I can't decide whether to call it milk nabe or deconstructed pottage but it was so good I'll definitely be making it again!