Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Won't Miss #29 - "Japan has 4 seasons" (reflection)

It's a winter wonderland, isn't it? This is part of what four distinct seasons looks like in Tokyo.

Since returning to the U.S., I have not experienced one person for whom their weather is a point of pride. Of course, living in the Bay Area, "their weather" is "sunny and hot" or "sunny and not so hot". The seasons here are pretty much "the grass is brown" (summer) or "the grass is green" (winter). Frankly, I hate the weather here because there's too much sun. I don't hate it nearly as much as the summers in Japan, but I do miss the presence of rain as well as the winter and all too brief autumn in Tokyo.

So, I guess it's no wonder that a place that appears to have two seasons wouldn't go on about how it has four of them, but even those who live in more seasonally differentiated area (like my sister, who lives in Pennsylvania) never speak of their weather as if it were unique and worthy of remarkable interest.

I absolutely do not miss people telling me again and again and again that "Japan has four seasons" as if it were the only area on the entire globe that possessed this special status. 


  1. I have never figured out what the implicit contrast is with. Traditional Chinese medicine uses a five-season system; Chinese agriculture uses (or used) a 24-season system.

    What do the Japanese say when you point out that Europe & America traditionally have four seasons, too? Even the parts (like the Bay Area) which actually have only 2 seasons?

    1. I always told them that the weather was different all over the U.S. and that, where I was from, we had more distinct seasons than Tokyo experienced (they were classic in their differerentiation - snow in winter, hot in summer, warm and rainy to some extent in spring with flours, cool, windy, and full of colorful leaves in autumn). They sort of looked at me as if I was saying something that did not compute or nod mutely.

      I often then asked them if Japan did not also have different weather based on geography, and then they'd concede that it did.

  2. Ha, your comments on California's weather remind me of my parents', both natives of the North East portion of the US. I do feel as though we get four distinct weather patterns up in Mendocino County, but they refuse to call the coldest season "winter" (even though it regularly gets below freezing), referring to it instead as "spall." They do miss the distinct seasons as there, if not the snow or humidity.

    I wish English classes would do some lessons on weather around the world. Many of my students would come back from homestays or trips abroad miffed that the people they met weren't interested in hearing about the four seasons of Japan.

    I guess every place has their eccentricities!

  3. I blogged on this too, but with more vulgarity - be warned before hitting the link.

    "Can't the Japanese count to six? Yes, and they even have vocabulary for the rainy season and the 'good summer' in May (I coined my own for the 'bad summer', July through September). Shouldn't they have counted higher than four? Yes, however, they read too much Chinese Tang Dynasty poetry, and those cats went on about their four seasons: which is fair enough as they were not in the same climate as Japan. Japan borrow concepts from abroad and apply them without analysis of local conditions? June weddings make sense in England, where that's the only good month."


  4. A never ending battle. I always point out very directly that this is nothing special. The funny thing is that most people actually know it is not true, but tend to reflexively believe it. Or at least say it.

    Many believes Japan has the most humid weather on earth in the summer too. When I point out that in the southeastern US 100% humidity is not especially rare in summers, they can be shocked. Fortunately nowadays, we have Google so I can show live weather reports.

    I have been thinking of replying with some other absurdity, such as yes, and the US is the only country with a 100% full full moon (or the fullest full moon) on earth too.

  5. This obsession puzzled me too, for many of my years in Japan. Then while going over some of the retired textbooks in the copy room I found a textbook with that very quote in print. And then it clicked, just like the constant parroting of love of the Carpenters or the Beatles… the four seasons question wasn’t so much a real opinion as it is a memorized conversation prompt. So many of the “neutral” attempts at polite conversation in English are buried in the government approved textbooks. And like so many other subjects in Japan, memorizing and regurgitating the textbook is the focus of class. And so they seem to be the first thing the school nurse thinks of when she attempts polite conversation with the English teacher.


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