Time for a change

If you judge Japan by its love for its cultural heritage and the glacial speed at which the government updates its policies to fit with 20th century standards (yes, 20th century, you heard me), you may get the impression Japan is averse to change. But you’d be wrong.

Last Saturday was the autumn equinox, and that means it is now officially winter time in Japan, no matter what the weather says. Shops change their layout and stock, and staff change their light cotton uniforms for the warmer woolen variety. Television channels juggle around their schedules and programs, so we can expect a whole new series of talk shows and food tasting scenes at brand new times during the day. Restaurants change their menus to include seasonal dishes.
This will all be repeated at the next equinox when it will be officially summer time.

Strangely though, this year the weather has been slightly ahead of policy. Wet and cold days all through the summer have been in sharp contrast to the stiflingly humid and scorching days I remember from when I first moved here. In previous years the poor shop clerks had to endure about a month of sweat as their warm uniforms didn’t quite match up with the still warm weather (or vise versa).

Soon the leaves will change colour, forming such a staggering range of bright hues it has become an actual tourist attraction. Japanese people can travel halfway across the country just to watch the bright red and yellows of the trees. Like their love for the cherry blossoms that bloom for a mere two weeks in spring, it is hard to understand the beauty of and affection for the autumn leaves until you witness them. Japan’s landscape is fairly unsaturated, with a lot of browns and grays, so an event like the cherry blossom or autumn leaves really has a huge impact on the scenery.

Personally I can’t wait for the winter. However much I, and most Japanese, hate the hot and humid summers, the winters are bright and crisp. Whereas in England you’d be lucky to experience a few hours of overcast daylight, in Tokyo the winter days start early and are usually sunny and bright, though the air is dry and brisk. If we’re lucky we may even get to see some snow. Last year certain areas in the north were stricken with massive snow storms, but Tokyo usually only endures a week orso of a white, elegant blanket covering the otherwise gray metropolis. Again unlike England, the trains usually manage fine under these weather conditions too.

Halloween paraphernalia are already appearing in the shops and October won’t reach its conclusion before we’ll see Christmas trees and little fat Santa dolls here and there.

And all of that anticipation was suddenly rife last Saturday when the rules dictated the summer is over. So, Japan loves change so much it has institutionalised it to occur twice yearly at the equinox, and that will always be so, thus and never otherwise.


  1. Good to hear autumn is nice. Will it stay that way until the end of October? I'll be heading there for a few days at that time.

  2. This year, who can tell? The weather has been all over the place. It should be okay till the end of October and well into November but who knows? Maybe by this time next week winter is in full swing!