Simpler times on the Uradome Coast. photo courtesy of Mika Osaki

Simpler times on the Uradome Coast. photo courtesy of Mika Osaki

In this cold and lonely winter, I can’t help but dream of the picture perfect Japanese summers I enjoyed during my time in Tottori. It seems like forever ago that life was so carefree, but during these difficult times I can still find sunshine in those memories of lazy days and long nights, beers on the beach and smashing suika (watermelon), or going to karaoke for the air conditioning and swimming in the warm waters of the pristine Uradome Coast. There were hot, sticky nights filled with birthday parties, homemade mojitos, cheap fireworks and summer matsuri. Someone is always playing the guitar or the ‘ukulele everywhere we go. These are the images of summer. There is always laughter, and there is always music. We still have to go into work every day during the kids’ summer break (which is pointless), but every weekend we all gather and head straight for the ocean.

Life is simple, and sweet. Here are the highlights of summer.

It’s the middle of a hot July night and the beach is deserted. Only the light of the full moon illuminates the shadowy figures of my found family splashing around the warm water and dancing in the sand. Or so we think. Someone shouts excitedly at us to look closely at the water. It takes a second for our eyes to adjust, but before long we see countless bioluminescent plankton floating around us like stars in the sea. The black water comes alive with glowing white, blue and purple specks shimmering brightly all around us. Instantly, our group of teachers become children once again. We run our hands through the water in awe as the tiny lights dance and swirl through the midnight waves. I look around at the iridescent water, the pearly moon and my radiating companions. Time seems to stop as I reflect upon the crazy, stupid luck that brought us across the dark, lonely world to this exact moment filled with such beautiful light. For the first time in a long time, magic is real again.

I can’t quite articulate the relief of seeing people you know and love from your home country after an extended period abroad. My two best friends from childhood have just flown across the world to visit me in my new home. They’re completely exhausted, but I am overjoyed to see them again. After a quiet night in, the next day I take them to meet the wonderful people I spend my days in Japan with. I introduce my friends from home as my cousins; it’s just a more accurate way to describe our relationship. After all, I call their parents Auntie and Uncle, and we grew up together. It was kind of surreal to see everyone meet each other, and watch them hit it off instantly. We spend the day at the beach, and my cousins are blown away by the gorgeous coastline and the crystal clear water. In the evening, we all head to the local bar that we frequent. Sitting in one of my favorite places surrounded by all of my favorite people, the world is soft, bright, warm and joyful.

Yes, the humidity can be unforgiving and the sun can be relentless. But there is something magical about summer on the Japanese coast that stays with you, and those memories can be called upon to warm you when the days grow cold.

Mika Osaki is a Yonsei originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, who grew up deeply involved in SF’s Japantown community. She initially relocated to Tottori city, Japan as an English teacher with the Japan Exchange and Teaching Program, and currently resides in Yokohama, Japan. She can be reached at The views expressed in the preceding column are not necessarily those of the Nichi Bei Weekly.

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