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Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Summer in Tokyo

東京の夏

Tokyo

In this very cycleable city, Tokyo, I cycle to work whenever the weather allows it. Now summer is here and – the rainy season being over - cycling days have begun again. Shops are so frigidly air conditioned that cycling down a high street you are literally doused with great clouds of escaping cold air.

However, being in the generally cooler eastern part of Japan, Tokyo summer days, although hot, are mostly not as stifling as they are further west. And as with anywhere not too near the equator, summer days linger and linger. Here in Tokyo at the end of July it is still fairly light at 7pm making for a beautiful clear twilit sky as you speed home under it down the broad sweeping streets. (Click on photo above taken at 7.15pm in the business district of Yotsuya.)

With the sun out in full force during the day, the streets of Tokyo often resemble fields of weird bobbing mushrooms as the women of the city seek shelter from the harsh UV under any number of hues of lacy, frilly follies of umbrellas. Occasionally you’ll even catch a traditional old bamboo or paper umbrella – more likely wielded by a young person with flair, though, than a real old timer.

Your peripheral vision is as likely to catch the flutter of hand-held folding fans – used by both men and women, and more for the practical effect than as an affectation. They really work.

Wall Street types in their 40s and 50s in Savile Row suits abound whatever the weather, but with the growing popularity of ‘cool biz’, summer accelerates dramatically the trend towards open necks, shirtsleeves and cooler colors than black and gray.

Evenings cool down considerably however, and if you’re stepping out to the konbini (i.e. convenience store) for that little something at midnight in your T-shirt, you may well step back in and don a jacket.

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