This n That

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In Japan, summer (or natsu, as they say in Japanese) is an intense and memorable experience. I will always remember my first summer in Tokyo - the heat was like nothing this Minnesota girl had ever experienced. Minnesota summers were hot too - sometimes nearing one hundred degrees with high humidity - and we would say, “We are having a heat wave”. The weather would be unbearably hot for just a few days, and then it would cool off again, until the next heat wave came. Unlike Minnesota, however, the summer heat in Tokyo, and all areas south of Tokyo, LASTED FOR THREE MONTHS! During my first Tokyo summer, I remember thinking, “Good grief, how long is this heat wave going to last?” That was the first and last summer during my time in Japan that I even considered using the phrase heat wave.

Summer nights in Tokyo are not much cooler than the days. On the ten-minute walk from the subway station to my apartment, I would literally be DRIPPING with sweat, and it was 10:00 at night! I would get home, peel off my work clothes and jump into a cold bath. I once even wrote a poem about the summer heat in Tokyo and submitted it to a poetry contest - my first and last. I think it may have been the two very large and very cold beers I had drunk that night to cool off which assured me I had written a “winner”:

August at 10 pm
10 minutes from station to door
Sweat trickling down my spine
Wet hot wool blanket
Slowing me down

It didn’t win. I am still convinced it’s because the judges had never spent a summer in Tokyo!

Despite, or perhaps because of, the extreme summer heat, there is something quite special about this season in Tokyo. There are foods, activities and events that you can only find during the hot summer months and I believe the heat somehow adds to the intensity of my happy summer memories. It is so extremely hot that these enjoyable experiences are made so extremely wonderful. Here are a few of my favorite summertime pleasures:

- Watermelons so sweet and juicy they put American watermelons to shame
- Huge, soft white peaches that have been carefully and individually wrapped in paper as they grow to keep them blemish free
- Freshly-boiled e-da-ma-me still on the stem
- Festivals! Festivals! Festivals!
- Shaved ice with fruity flavors poured on top
- Breezy sunsets atop rooftop beer gardens
- Lengthy firework displays as spectacular as the short firework finales in America
- Pretty glass wind chimes that help you feel cool with their delicate sound
- Symphonies of cicadas
- Colorful cotton kimonos on festival goers of all ages

Even as I write this list, the memories conjure up feelings of fond nostalgia. Summer is really a very special time in Japan. My husband had a saying on hot summer mornings - he’d wake up and say, “Let’s do summer!” I invite you to “do summer” in Japan yourself sometime - it’s worth the sweat!!


The Japanese have a phrase that they use a lot - and I mean A LOT: “Yoro-shiku-o-negai-shimas.”

There is no way to directly translate this phrase. Very loosely translated, however, it means “you are going to do something for me, thank you.”

There are two principal ways to use this phrase - one use is when you meet someone for the first time, the other is if you request or are offered help.

For example,

When meeting someone for the first time:

Me: Hello my name is Krista. It's nice to meet you. Yoro-shiku-o-negai-shimas.

Sato: My name is Sato. Yoro-shiku-o-negai-shimas.

When requesting something of someone:

Me: Akiko-san, could look over these documents to make sure there are no mistakes?

Akiko: Of course.

Me: Thank you. Yoro-shiku-o-negai-shimas.


Me: Miyamoto-san, would you please tell Ryan how to get to his hotel from your office?

Miyamoto: Yes, I’ll explain when he gets here.

Me: Thank you. Yoro-shiku-o-negai-shimas.

When someone offers help:

Hanawa: Can I help you with these files?

Me: That would be great. Thank you. Yoro-shiku-o-negai-shimas.

Yoro-shiku-o-negai-shimas is a great and useful phrase. If you communicate with Japanese people, try it out - they will be pleased with your effort and enthusiasm for their language.