Saturday, July 15, 2006

Mushi Atsui

The Japanese have a great phrase to describe the weather during their infamous summers: 蒸し暑い (mushi-atsui). The word means something as prosaic as "humid", but it has a really great sound that seems to sum up the violent heat and humidity that comprise a typical Japanese summer day: moo-she au-tsoo-ey. Looking at the two words that make up the phrase, the literal translation would be something like: "steaming hot", which is more like it.

Since I am writing about how to describe a Japanese summer day, you may correctly surmise that the rainy season (梅雨, tsuyu) has passed us by and left us in the wrenching grip of summer. The rainy season is usually three weeks of solid rain, but this year, it was an odd one. It was something like five weeks of drizzle for three days, clear for two days weather, which just made us nervous, since we were expecting the "real" rainy season to start any day. It is certainly true that the fear of something is worse than the thing itself.

Anyway, this morning, I woke up at around 9:00, after a pleasant evening with the Amazon IT crew and our assorted wives and fiancés at El Torito, a decent Mexican restaurant that Lyani and I used to frequent in our Yokohama days. Of course, this particular El Torito was not the one on the 26th floor of the Yokohama Sky Building (alas!); this one was located on the ground floor of an unassuming, five-storey building by the Nishi-Kasai station on the Tozai Metro line. But the tacos were still tasty, the quesadillas quality, the enchiladas enticing, and the spicy sauce spectacular. Oh yeah, and the Corona was on special: la cerveza mas fina indeed! Best line from the evening? One of my colleagues is upbraided by his fiancé: "If your back has hurting, why did you go to the pachinko parlour instead of the chiropractor?" Replied my colleague, "Well, it wasn't hurting then!"

But back to this morning. Lyani decided to make pancakes for breakfast, so while she washed a few dishes, I headed around the corner to the Daily Yamazaki convenience store to pick up some milk and butter (doing my part for breakfast). This was at 9:30 in the morning, remember. So the moment I step out of the shade of our apartment building, the heat slams into me. It was like a physical force, an angry, animal thing that wanted to prevent me from making any progress. I swear the heat was so intense that it was like walking into a stiff wind. Good thing I only had to walk a block and a half, because two blocks in this heat is enough to make the average pedestrian look like he has just been swimming.

I arrived at the Daily Yamazaki with a modicum of sanity still intact. Daily Yamazaki is a chain, which usually means that its stores are staffed with teenagers working part-time, but this Daily, situated as it is in the dodgy end of a suburb, is run by an older couple. It reminds me of the outskirts of Kanazawa, which had a decidely "village" feel. Anyway, I picked up my milk and butter, paid, and the old lady at the counter thanked me for my patronage. I exited the store and turned for home, passing the husband, who was stocking the cigarette vending machine outside the store. He gave me a hearty "thanks" as well. That is one thing I like about living outside of the big city: people are actually friendly. In Japanese cities, sure, people are polite, but they are polite in that distant way that shows that they don't give a damn if you choose to shop in their convenience store or the one next door.

Well, Lyani and I are getting ready to head over to the station / Tokyo Disneyland area for to take some pictures. So, if your luck holds, you might just get a pictorial entry later today or tomorrow, showing you our neighbourhood.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


It's been unseasonably hot and humid here in Los Angeles, so I googled "mushi atsui" to make sure I spelled it right...and got your (old) blogpost as the top hit.

This may be "inaka" slang (my mom grew up in rural Japan), but I always thought "mushi atsui" translated literally to "bug hot". Which if funny/charming if you think about it.

Anyway, kampai!