Japanese summers are hot and humid, and in recent years have only got worse and surprisingly dangerous.
Since summer is almost here, we thought it would be beneficial to talk about heat stroke as we remember what to do in order to avoid them. As a reminder, many of the things people have to do could be categorized as no-brainers, but it can be difficult at times to remember that our bodies cannot stand the conditions that lead to heat stroke; not to mention that some people misread the signs their bodies are sending to let them know they need to cool down.
As a result, each summer thousand of people die because of heat stroke.
1. Wear cool clothes like T-Shirts and shorts/skirts. If you are working and are supposed to wear formal clothes, ask if your company allows cool-biz.
Cool-biz is an initiative where Japanese companies allow employees to wear more comfortable clothes like short-sleeve shirts. Additionally, during cool-biz months, men are usually not required to wear ties and jackets.
2. Stay indoors as much as possible, and if you are outdoors, try to stay in a shaded area. A good advice when walking during hot summer days is to keep a slow pace and to enter convenience stores from time to time to cool down.
Japanese cities have convenience stores everywhere; if Tokyo were a person, then all the 7-Elevens, Family Marts, and Lawsons would be its freckles. You can do the same if you encounter coffee shops like Dotour, Starbucks, and Tully’s, though at that point it could be a good idea to buy a coffee and sit down. Stopping at convenience stores is particularly helpful because Japanese summers are very humid, so being allowed to walk around aisles while enjoying the A/C can be extremely beneficial.
And remember to wear sunscreen!
3. Wear a hat and/or a parasol, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Something interesting about Japan, is that people are not very fond of sunglasses.
It might not be something that catches the attention of visitors and foreign residents until they become more observant or think about it carefully, but the vast majority of Japanese don’t really wear sunglasses even in summer (parasols and black arm sleeves are a different story, though). Nevertheless, sunglasses are very important if you don’t want the sun to damage your eyes. So it’s better to wear sunglasses than to try to fit in.
4. Drink plenty of water. Plain and simple.
Staying hydrated is of the utmost importance. Therefore, carrying a water bottle with you will always be a great idea. You can buy a water bottle that keeps liquids cold for hours so you can feel cool and refreshed each time you have a sip. S’well is a very popular brand, and one can buy these water bottles online, and at stores like LOFT and MoMa. However, there are many other options.
If you leave home or your hotel without a water bottle for whichever reason (whether you forgot it or didn’t have space for it), you can always take advantage of the many vending machines and convenience stores in Japan.
Additionally, if you feel so dehydrated your body is telling you to get some sports drinks, you can always buy Aquarius or Pocari Sweat. If you want something that is not as sweet as a regular sports drink, Pocari Sweat Ion Water is the single best option.
5. If you like exercising outside, it’ll be good to make some schedule adjustments. As a rule of thumb, the hottest time of the day will be between noon and 4:00 p.m., usually peaking at around 3:00 p.m.
It’s best to avoid exercising during those times. If you are a frequent runner, do so in the earliest hours of the morning or late at night; and remember to bring some water, or some cash if you decide to buy water or a sports drink after your run.
Some conditions will greatly increase the risks of heat stroke, and thus it’s important to recognize what kinds of environments and conditions can exacerbate problems:
The weather plays a huge role in heat strokes. Certain weather conditions like high temperatures, high humidity, a weak or no breeze, and strong sunshine can increase the risk of heat strokes. Additionally, environments like rooms with bad circulation or no air-conditioning can magnify the risks, so be mindful of this. If your home does not have an A/C unit, keep your windows open to allow air flow, and keeps use your shades or curtains to block the entrance of sunlight so that the inside of your apartment or house does not heat up even more… but honestly, if your place does not have an A/C unit, go buy one immediately! Summers in Japan have always been awful, and they have just become even more dangerous.
Whats more, be careful when heat waves occur. Heat waves are becoming far more common and longer in Japan, resulting in tens of thousands of deaths each summer.
Infants, children, and elderly people are at higher risk of suffering heat strokes. Other conditions that can increase risks include diabetes, insufficient nutrition, diarrhea, lack sleep, and hang overs. If you have any of these conditions, be extra careful when going outside. Remember to keep things slow, stay cool and hydrated, and to listen to your body when it’s telling you that the heat and humidity are starting to affect you.
As stated during under the tips to decrease the risk of heat stroke, exercising can be deadly when the weather is very hot and humid. However, physical activity is not restricted to exercise. Any kind of activity that makes your heart rate increase can exacerbate problems, so even if walking at a faster pace to catch the train can be very dangerous when there is a heat wave or when days are incredibly hot.
During summer, it’s best to keep a slow pace during the day. A good advice is to wake up earlier than usual so you can have more time to get ready. That way you’ll reduce the chances of running late before going to work, allowing you to have more peaceful days that don’t increase your anxiety and heart rate.