Welcome to the latest post in this series about Japanese cultural events, traditions and more throughout different months of the year!
As someone who is most definitely 暑がり (atsu-gari - bad with heat), summer is not my favourite time to be in Japan - although I will say it's surprising what you can adapt to after a while.
Today, let's find out more about life during July in Japan. Here are some links in case you'd like to skip ahead to any particular part of the article:
- The Japanese Word for July
- ① July is the Start of the School Holidays
- ② July is the Start of Mt Fuji's Open Season (2023)
- ③ 25th July is かき氷の日 (kakigōri no hi - Kakigōri Day)
Note: none of the links in this post are affiliated, which means I don't make money when you click them.
If you enjoy reading with (lyric-free) music in the background, here is 2 Hours of Ghibli Summer that happened to pop up as I was writing this post:
The Japanese Word for July
As with all other months of the year, the most common Japanese word for July is a numerical one: 七月 (shichi gatsu), which can also be written as 7月。
However, did you know there's another word for July?
Japan has only followed the Gregorian calendar since 1873, and as such, you may still occasionally come across older names of the months.
For June, this is 文月 (fumizuki), believed to originally mean "the month when rice ripens".
If you're interested in learning more about the (quite detailed and fascinating) Japanese calendar, I recommend this nippon.com page as a place to start.
Now that we're all clued up, let's have a look at three fun facts about life during July in Japan.
1. July is the Start of the School Holidays
While in the UK, the school summer holidays began some time ago, throughout much of Japan, they didn't start until around the 21st of the month, running until around the end of August (see more info in Japanese).
Something that I was personally quite shocked to hear during my time in Japan was that the summer holidays are a time when school children are given piles of homework to complete. While there's probably something to be said for having activities to stop kids from forgetting everything they've learnt up till now, I can't help but feel sorry for children (and their parents) dealing with that kind of deadline!
Here is an episode of yukie's podcast in which you can find out more about the reality of summer vacation homework for elementary school students in Japan:
2. July is the Start of Mt Fuji's Open Season (2023)
This year, Mount Fuji officially began welcoming climbers from the 1st of July.
With greatly heightened visitor numbers predicted this year, which is the first climbing season since the relaxation of Covid-19 restrictions, officials have raised concerns about an increased risk for climbers - particularly those intending to engage in "bullet climbing", the practice of starting at night from the Mount Fuji's fifth station and aiming to summit the mountain without rest.
If you're planning on visiting Mount Fuji this year (or any other), be sure to visit the official website for safety info including volcanic activity alerts.
- Did you know? The Japanese name for Mount Fuji is 富士山 (fuji-san)? While the "san" may sound like the term of address adding onto the end of people's names (as in "Tanaka-san"), it is fact one reading of the kanji for "mountain": 山。This reading is generally used for the names of specific mountains, whereas the general word for mountain is "yama" (also written as 山).
3. 25th July is かき氷の日 (kakigōri no hi - Kakigōri Day)
Have you ever tried かき氷 (kakigōri)? If not, the 25th of July is the perfect time for it!
かき氷 (kakigōri) is shaved ice. However, as with many things, Japan takes something that has the potential to be quite dull and pushes it to a whole new level. Just take a look at this selection of five かき氷 (kakigōri) in Tokyo:
If you're someone who enjoys a nice cold ice cream in the summer months, I can't recommend かき氷 (kakigōri) enough! Personally, my top place to try かき氷 (kakigōri) would be in Kyoto - or perhaps nearby Uji - as there are so many gorgeous options featuring 抹茶 (maccha) and other traditional Japanese flavours.
You can find out more about かき氷 (kakigōri) towards the end of this video by Daily Japanese with Neko:
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