With the exception of Hokkaido, Japan heralds the arrival of summer when the 気象庁 (Kishocho, or Japan Meteorological Agency) declares 梅雨明け (tsuyu ake, end of the rainy season).

This is the time of the year when urban office workers head for a nearby 屋上ビアガーデン (okujō bia gāden, rooftop summer beer garden). On weekends, gals may don a 浴衣 (yukata, summer kimono) and guys a 甚平 (jinbei, a pajamalike men's summer garment) and 草履 (zōri, Japanese sandals) and head for the nearest 花火大会 (hanabi taikai, fireworks display), a good place to chill out with 生ビール (nama bīru, draft beer), 西瓜 (suika, watermelon) and かき氷 (kaki gōri, shaved ice with a squirt of fruit syrup on top).

Along with ざるそば (zarusoba, cold buckwheat noodles), which can be consumed year-round, I vary my diet with two chilled items: 素麺 (sōmen, fine wheat noodles) and 冷やし中華 (hiyashi chūka, cold ramen topped with Chinese-style condiments). Rather than being dipped in つゆ (tsuyu, sauce), the latter can be consumed straight from the bowl, so it requires somewhat less manual dexterity with chopsticks.