Thursday, June 9, 2016

Japanese summers are hot

Nihon no natsu ha atsui

Summer vacation began in mid July and ended in early September for kids in Japan during the better part of the 20th century. (If you think that’s short, it’s even shorter now these days, since you don’t go to school on Saturdays anymore, and there are more official holidays than there used to be, so the school year is longer to make up for all that.) If you were in athletics, the big summer athletic meets ended in summer and you gave up and started studying (unless you were really good at what you did and you went to Nationals or something, which is what happened to one guy in track and another guy in swimming, but they never went to international competition or even collegiate level athletics, which is a reminder that you should never take athletics too seriously, I am looking at you, college age Pumpkinmommy and her squadmates), but if you were not (like me) you still had stuff to do like competitions and school shows, so you had practice during summer vacation.

Drama club was going to put on a play during the school festival (bunkasai, more on that later, so we rehearsed that. Band was also rehearsing. We were allowed to ride our bicycles to school for practice during summer vacation (you usually couldn’t, although some of the more rebellious types would ride their bicycles and hide them somewhere near the school, and there was this cat and mouse thing they had going with the teachers where the teachers would try to find the bicycles during the day and lock the frame and wheel together and the rebels would try to pick the locks or cut the chains or, better yet, not get caught in the first place.)

The school’s (outdoor) swimming pool was opened almost every afternoon during summer vacation. We were encouraged to show up, either to keep us out of trouble or to keep us out of our parents’ hair, or both. In addition to that, there was a “school attendance day” when we’d go to school and there’d be a short assembly and then we’d go home. I wasn’t quite sure what purpose it served...a chance for teachers to check on kids who might be having problems outside school? They don’t do that anymore because vacation’s so darned short.

Another noteworthy thing that happened that summer was that we had additions built to that tiny run-down house we moved into. The living room and one of the bedrooms were expanded, the bathroom renovated, the tiniest bedroom converted into a closet, and a second floor with two bedrooms added. They built during the summer. When I was supposed to be studying. You know, to make up for the two years I wasn’t in this country? Also, while the renovations were being done on one side of the house, we’d have to move to the side that they weren’t working on. This meant even at night, we were cramped into one or two rooms. So, if I wanted to study at night, I was doing so in the same room as my dad, who would be watching baseball on T.V.

In retrospect, another impressive thing about all this was that until the renovations were complete, we did not have air conditioning during the time of year temps regularly hit the high 30s (high 90s or over 100 in Fahrenheit). This may not sound like much, but when you add in humidity, it was pretty darned uncomfortable.

As I write this, I marvel at how much I accomplished then, and how little I can accomplish now...

1 comment:

Annie Crow said...

This made me chuckle - "I marvel at how much I accomplished then, and how little I can accomplish now..." Except, of course, back then we weren't responsible for much else besides ourselves. Certainly not the well-being of two small ones (and one large one).