Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Summer in Japan: Uchimizu

An appreciation of the changing seasons is an important and well known aspect of Japanese culture and is evident in Japan's food, art and traditions. The heavily laden branches of cherry blossom trees are the famous symbol of spring in Japan, autumn is famed for its vibrant colours while winter is signified by the foods and rituals of New Year. Japanese summers are known for their humidity and exhausting heat so, in an attempt to stay cool, Japanese people developed many rituals, traditions and foods to distract themselves from the oppressive weather. From the cooling sound of a fūrin wafting in the breeze to the distraction of a lively matsuri summer in Japan is rich with interesting cultural traditions and practices.

Photo: Sapporo TekuTeku

Uchimizu 打ち水 is the practice of sprinkling water on paths and pavements and is commonly done throughout Japan in the summer. Traditionally uchimizu is done whilst wearing yukata and using a bowl and ladle made from bamboo.

Photo: 新宿区町会連合会

However today containers like buckets, pots and bottles are also used. Modern concern for the environment has also made the use of recycled water important. Collected rainwater or water taken from the bath or air-conditioning unit is suggested for uchimizu.

Photo: Japan for Sustainability

Events are held each summer in Japan to encourage the practice of uchimizu. People are urged to make uchimizu part of their daily routine during the summer as the act of sprinkling water at the entrance of your home, on the street or outside shops and businesses is thought to lower the temperature of the ground, keep down dust and make the air feel cooler. Doing uchimizu is considered a courteous duty to one's neighbours as well as embodying traditional aesthetic values.

Further Reading:
Mission Uchimizu website  (English)

This article is part of my A Pillow Book of Japan project.


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