It's a cold Summer this year. Japan has a million words for weather and climate. And they're all so pedantic. Summer day? Why that would be when the temperature tops 25 degrees. Midsummer's day? Only if it's at least 30 degrees. Ferociously hot day (for real 猛暑日) why that's when the temperature tops 35 degrees and not a tenth of a degree less.
Not that we need any of these words this summer. Ever since the rainy season ended the weather has been foul. Rain, rain, rain. Nagano has only had 59% of the sunshine of an average year so far this summer. All the people fretting about water shortages when we only got 55% of the snowfall of an average year last winter must be relieved, hey? (Did I mention that as well as assigning excruciatingly specific conditions to meteorological terms Japan is also the land of the statistic?)
I'm sure people used to sweltering through the hot humid summer months in Tokyo and Nagoya think this cool summer is a boon but around here it is not quite so welcome. The constant rain and lack of sunlight affects the growing cycles. Apples need sunlight to turn red and vegetables need a break from the rain to get a chance to throw off the mold and rot and do some growing.
With late frosts and low ground temperatures most people hold off planting their crops here until the Golden Week Holiday in May. I've always wondered what people do in parts of the country where planting season doesn't coincide with 5 days off work to call in the rellies for an all hands on deck planting fiesta... Anyway, May is warming up, June is rainy, July and August are hot, September is easing back to warm and by October we get frost and the growing season is over. So in 5 months we need to grow enough stuff to get us through the year. I'm lucky in that the garden is just a hobby for me. While I don't like to buy veggies at the supermarket I do have a job and a salary so I can just nick down to the shops if my garden is washed away. Not so a lot of my neighbours who are fulltime farmers. If the apple crop fails they enter a series of complicated deals with their contract owner (JA), their bank (JA) and their agricultural insurance agent (JA) (Does that seem scarily monopoly like to anyone else??)
A cold summer and things aren't looking good. A late frost took out a lot of the apple blossom this Spring and what's left are undersize for this time of year because of the weather. We're not getting a second crop of corn and cucumber in because the first crop isn't finished yet. My rye has fallen over and is molding away on the ground as we wait for two sunny days in a row (one to dry it and one to harvest it.) But the most worrying thing is the rice. The post rainy season deluge we're having is reminiscent of the cold summer of 15 years ago. That cold summer. The one where the rice crops failed and Japan had to import Thai rice. The shock! The horror! The digestive complaints! The whispers are gathering in momentum, volume and frequency "Cold Summer, Thai rice, shudder shudder, buy rice!"
Interestingly, the Japan Meteorological Agency doesn't like people using the term 'cold summer' as it can lead to mass panic and no rice left on the shelves. Ok, that's not quite what they said but it is interesting that cold summer is a naughty word, don't you think? Personally I'm not stressing. I quite like Thai rice, it's a great excuse to eat Thai curry and I hear the price is much cheaper than regular rice anyway.
Wonder what the neighbours would think if I planted some?