Autumn is my favourite season. It’s cool enough to leave the house, baseball season is thankfully drawing to a close, sukiyaki is the dish of choice and Japan looks beautiful in the autumn colours.
My wife and I decided to head off to Miyajima for the day. It’s not quite the time when the leaves have turn their autumn shade, but we just fancied a day out. It’s 15 minutes on the train then 10 minutes of the ferry, so it’s fairly close. And as has become the norm over the last couple of years, the train was rammed full of tourists and backpackers.
My daily walk to the shops has become somewhat of trek through the Arabian Desert. A scene reminiscent of Lawrence of Arabia. A sort of Lawrence of Hiroshima, if you will. Yep, the sun has been set to “Incinerate” mode as Japan experiences a historic heatwave with record-breaking temperatures reaching 41.1 degrees. After the recent devastating flooding and landslides in Western Japan, which left 225 people dead and more than $6 billion in property damage, it seems that “Mother Nature” refuses to let-up. More than 70 people have died and more than 22,000 have been hospitalised due to the persistent heat. And it doesn’t seem as though it’ll get cooler anytime soon. That’s a slight concern seen as though August is usually Japan’s hottest month, and it’s still July.
Air-conditioning is the almighty saviour. Yet not everyone has it. Those living in cooler regions of Northern Japan don’t usually experience these insane temperatures and thus haven’t seen the need for one until now. Meanwhile, only around 42% of public elementary and middle schools have air conditioning. I previously worked in schools that had no AC, and instead had a set of ineffective fans attempting to cool the students. Those particular schools insisted that as long as the students suffered from the heat, then the teachers would too. So the staff room’s air-conditioning wouldn’t be turned on until the students had left for the day. The reasoning may be economic and/or environmental, but there’s a distinct mindset in Japanese society to improve one’s moral resolve by enduring. In this case, blistering temperatures. But I’d rather they just install AC so students wouldn’t complain all the time.
Experts have warned that this could well be the “new normal” for the country. A truly terrifying thought for the future.