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Monday
Jun172013

The Month of No Water, Indeed

   Enjoying another beautiful day here in Fukuoka. It’s sunny and about 29℃ outside, which is hot, but not scorching—perfect beach barbecue weather. If this is the rainy season, bring it on!

   On second thought, nix that idea.

   I don’t recall another rainy season with so little rain as this one since the Drought of ’94. I’ll never forget it.

   The summer before had been unseasonably cool and wet causing rice production to fell by 11.5%. Japan was forced to import one million tons of rice, mostly from Thailand. While I didn’t mind the “Tai mai” (Thai rice), most of the Japanese around me grumbled constantly that it smelled funny or was too dry or didn’t go well with miso soup, and so on.[1]

   The summer of 1994 almost sent me packing.

   When the end of the rainy season was announced on the first of July, a full two weeks earlier than normal, the level of water at dams and reservoirs throughout the prefecture started to drop. Five days later on July 6, the local branch of the Ministry of Construction and the prefectural government announced measures to conserve water. For most of the month of July, the water supply was shut off for twelve hours a day from 9pm until 9am. That may not sound bad, but at the time I was working from 9:30 in the morning to about 8:30 in the evening, meaning I had only thirty minutes in the morning and thirty minutes in the evening to shower and shave, do the laundry, cook, wash the dishes, water my plants, and relieve myself. Let me tell you, I hope I never have to go through that again.

   Checking the prefecture’s website, I am heartened to see that in spite of the unseasonably sunny weather, our 17 dams are currently at 74.9% capacity.

 


[1] I have a theory why rice from Thailand rather than from California was imported. It is because of that very difference in flavor and “stickiness”. If California rice had been allowed in, the average Japanese consumer would have realized that domestically produced rice, while good, isn’t always worth the premium he was paying for it. Importing Thai rice was a way to traumatize the consumer into sticking with the tried-and-true short-grained Japonica rice. (Incidentally, Japan was already importing Thai rice for production of the Okinawan fire water, awamori.)

For more on the Japanese rainy season, go here.

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