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.