Coping with the heat

Weather comparisons with England are no longer possible; that chance disappeared in April`s English-summer sunshine. From now on, each day is a smothering of increasingly warm and unwelcome mushi mushi mugginess.

In old Japan, they had an effective answer to this sticky heat: nudity.  Here is a quote from Mr Kaoru Umehara (born 1913) describing the fishermen of Isohama:

“They used to go around completely naked in the summer – they didn`t even wear a loincloth.  They also had this habit of pulling back their foreskin and winding straw around the tip; honestly it was like something in a film about Bushmen!……On board their boats or pulling in their dragnets from the beach, that`s all they had on.”*

What was the purpose of the straw?  Actually, I am not sure I want to know.

And it was not only men who shed their clothing. Mr Umehara continues:

“The women used to help them with the nets, and though the younger girls had a waistcloth wrapped around them and some might wear an undershirt, the older women had nothing on either.”

Isabella Bird, a British woman who travelled around north Japan in the late 19th century, saw plenty of flesh.  This is her description of the locals in a settlement in the mountains of west Aizu:

“No young boy wore any clothing.  Few of the men wore anything but the maro [loincloth], the women were unclothed to their waists and such clothing as they had was very dirty, and held together by mere force of habit.”**

Now I feel a little awkward.  I have to admit I didn`t start this post intending to write about nudity.  I distracted myself. I planned to write a few words on a completely different topic – crows and cockroaches, two creatures of which it should be noted, ALWAYS go naked.  That post will have to wait.

So in conclusion, wearing clothes is a silly idea.

(But for purposes of visa restrictions I will maintain the queer new habit)

* Quote taken from Memories of Silk and Straw: A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan by Dr Junichi Saga.

**  Quote taken from Unbeaten Tracks in Japan by Isabella Lucy Bird.

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6 Responses to Coping with the heat

  1. Rurousha says:

    Sir, I beg to differ! Crows are dressed Tokyo-style, i.e. very formally in their Sunday best. Black, of course, and polished to a shine. 😀

    PS: Isabella Bird is my heroine and role model.

    • tomointokyo says:

      Good point, it is nice to they make an effort, even if the colour is a little too one-tone.
      Isabella Bird`s story and trip is incredible; she must have been quite a woman. Her `servant interpteter` Ito must have had a ordeal too.

  2. Rurousha says:

    Are you on Facebook? If yes, it would be lekker to connect. You can find me under Ru Sumida or Rurousha. PS: You are absolutely allowed to ignore this question. Grin.

    • tomointokyo says:

      Yes, I am. I have been trapped in it for about 6 years. And I think I found you and sent you a message earlier. I think. I am not 100% sure how it works – I have only been on it for 6 years

      • Rurousha says:

        Ms Bloody Cheeks has invited you to be her friend. Are you brave enough to accept?! 😀

        PS: I only spotted your message this morning because I’m from Africa and therefore more comfortable with native drums than technology.

      • tomointokyo says:

        Challenge gladly accepted.
        As for, comfortable with native drums – any live shows????

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