284953_459640854069062_35471595_nTaken by Hiroko Sakamoto  


Daniel Penso


Today, I’m going to reflect on natsu (pronounced kind of like “nuts”) in Japan.
People literally go nuts during natsu, or summer, all over Japan. There are a myriad of festivals, fireworks shows, outdoor booths which sell food and a variety of trinkets. As in other cultures, people love the summer in Japan. There are so many positive connotations, even a popular name for girls, Natsuko. You can also hear the word “forever summer (常夏 tokonatsu)”. People of all ages and genders put on yukata (浴衣) to view the fireworks or just go for a stroll. It’s a lively, vibrant atmosphere.

This is the season that I first arrived in Japan in 1993 and the humidity and the jubilant nature of the country welcomed and attracted me. In Tokyo, you have the famous fireworks shows such as the one at Tokyo Bay, or Tokyo Wangan Hanabi Taikai (東京湾岸花火大会), or the Asakusa hanabi show or various others. There are also big street markets that open up such as in Azabu-juban Noryo Matsuri (麻布十番納涼祭り), near Roppongi for the night club crowd. I have so many great memories of natsu in Japan and especially Tokyo where I lived for 11+ years.

But the memory that sticks out most is when I went to Osaka in the summer of 2003. It was a crazy year because the Hanshin Tigers, a baseball team in Osaka, had won their first pennant since 1985 and I was part of the fever. I had been to Kyoto before a couple of times but had never been to Osaka, so it was really exciting stepping onto the platform at Osaka station. I took as many pictures as I could, of Osaka station, Osaka castle, Tsutenkaku (like the Tokyo Tower in Osaka), the Hanshin Department Store, Amemura (America Mura, Lit. “American Village”), etc. I was so enthralled in the Hanshin Tigers that coming to Osaka felt like ecstasy.

I went to Koshien, the home stadium for the Hanshin Tigers, to see a game and the whole stadium was shaking with the cheers and clunking of the horns for their Tigers. After they won the game, I joined in a rally that started from the stadium and continued onto the train to Osaka station, where fans would be singing the ouenka (応援歌; songs for players), and I joined in the ruckus. I would say it was one of the highlights of my time in Japan. Utterly surreal.


Daniel Penso


Lived in Tokyo from 1999 – 2009 and calls it his second home. Currently he resides in Oregon and is a Japanese-English translator. He enjoys traveling, learning languages and cuisine. When visiting Japan, he enjoys watching rakugo shows.
*J-E/E-J Translation:
*His columns: