When out and about on the streets of Kyoto, my attention, in the summer, was quickly drawn to the myriad displays of fans and parasols that pop up in department stores and other retail spaces, as well as on women in the street. I had thought these accessories were just a leftover affectation or vestige from ancient Japanese culture, used as elements and add-ons of intriguing design. That was, until this summer’s visit to Kyoto, when the word ‘heat” took on a new dimension.
The humidity in Kyoto ramped up suddenly towards the end of our visit. Suddenly, I found myself having difficulty breathing, drenched in perspiration and chronically tired. I immediately understood the necessity of having personal accessories, like a hankie, parasol and fan, in order to have a fighting chance of survival when venturing out-of-doors! If possible, I would have had no objection to adding two sturdy men to carry me around,so that my exertion level could be reduced to zero.
I developed a new appreciation for hankies as well. In Japan, there are hundreds of choices available for that small square textile, from dainty to outrageous. I had already learned to carry one in case there was no alternate drying method available after washing my hands, but I’d never had to rely on it to keep me from looking like I’d just run a triathlon! Now, they too became indispensable for coping with the heat.
At the beginning of our trip, I’d purchased several paper fans that appealed to me for their seasonal beauty. I parked them in a bamboo fan stand right in the middle of our dining room table. Their designs ranged from painted hydrangeas to blue and white gingham check, to cut outs of morning glories.
They quickly became my first “don’t leave home without it” item. I also recognized the importance of carrying a parasol and soon carried one without any degree of self-consciousness. Unfortunately, being uninformed on the practice of buying a parasol, I bought an inexpensive one, which although pretty, didn’t do much to block the sun’s penetrating rays.
I’d met my match weather-wise and ultimately admitted that I was, for once, relieved to be leaving Japan and going home to Santa Barbara, to the land of perpetual low humidity, comfortable temperatures and endless blue skies.
The parasol, the hankies and the fans, were all put to rest.