Surviving Japanese Summer: Tips and Lifesaving Products

  • HOW TO
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    by Zoria Petkoska

    The unbearable heatwaves are globally getting worse and even before that, Japanese summers have been notorious since forever. Almost every iconic anime or film has a summer scene of people almost melting into the tatami like Dali’s clocks, while cicadas blare in the background. The scene might also have a hardworking electric fan barely helping, or the occasional jingle of glass chimes (called furin in Japanese) piercing the monotony. Experiencing those anime scenes might be the one and only silver lining to the terrible heat.


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    Temperatures in summer in Japan go between 34 – 38 degrees Celsius on average, but real feel is always around 40 and more. If you look at the temperature alone there are countries with higher numbers, but the humidity in Japan is the real culprit, making air difficult to breathe and interfering with the body sweating mechanisms.

    The heat and humidity are also hard to bear in a city not really equipped for them – walking to the station is usually long with no shade, and taxis are expensive in Japan. Big cities are incredible crowded that only worsens heat. Finally, most buildings have thin walls that barely protect from the outside elements. Every summer the heat causes many deaths and hospitalizations around Japan.

    Everyone knows the basic advice: don’t go out if you don’t have to, stay hydrated, eat fresh fruit and vegetables, throw some ice cream or kakigori in there too, slather sunscreen on your skin, wear a hat and glasses. (In Japan, very often people wear long sleeves too to protect them from the sun).
    On top of all that, here are some further tips and tricks to survive the Japanese summer.

    1. Frozen water bottle


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    Let’s stat with the most obvious one. Everyone knows to bring a water bottle, and a frozen solid water bottle is even better. It is especially convenient for longer trips as it keeps cool for a long time and you just refill water occasionally as the ice melts. You might know this trick, but keep forgetting it, so consider this a reminder. And buy a bottle cover to soak up all the condensation on the outside so it doesn’t dampen your bag.

    2. Sports drinks and salty and sour products


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    Water aside, drinks like Pocari Sweat are a summer staple in Japan and can be found in every vending machine and convenience store. Don’t let the name disgust you, the ‘sweat’ is in the name to remind you to drink it during ‘sweaty times’ we assume. It can also be found in jelly form, powder to make pocari at home, and other drinks like ‘ion water’ etc.

    Food and drink with salt or sour ume plum is thought to have benefits during intense heat, so you will see a lot of drinks boasting additional saltiness or sourness. Same goes for candy, gummies, desserts, smoothies etc.

    3. Neck towel/cooling towel


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    Let’s move on to the more science-y cooling tricks developed in Japan to combat summer. A lot of people swear by this cooling neck towel because they say that is where one sweats the most when walking under the sun. There are many types, from single-use disposable patches to multiple use ones that need to be refrigerated or activated with water. The neck coolers can be found in many shops for cosmetics or shops for everything like Don Quijote. They can also be bought online.

    4. Cooling sprays/gels/wet wipes and so on


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    Why only keep your neck cool when all your skin begs for relief? This is where cooling sprays come in – some to be sprayed on your skin, some for hair, and some for clothes so that clothes become cooler and cool you in turn. There are also super icy wet wipes that keep your skin cool and tingly for some time after you wipe it. There are even very specific items like cooling and absorbing pads for your armpits! Many people also stick the cooling patches normally used when one has a fever, but isn’t summer heat almost the same as being sick and feverish? I’d say YES.

    5. UV protection sun umbrella


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    Umbrellas or parasols are crucial in Japan and they have been long part of tradition and culture. Nowadays it’s best to go with the UV cut type as they are custom-made for summer and are small and light. Some men are squeamish about carrying an umbrella saying it’s too ladylike, but that shouldn’t be an issue in Tokyo because so many people are carrying one. Not getting a heatstroke is more important than anything!

    6. Fans – all the fans!

    The following pun is so dead from overuse, yet I can’t help myself – I’m a fan of fans. (puts 100 yen punishment money in the ‘tired pun’ jar)

    Fans are your best friend against humidity. A simple hand paper fan will do the trick and can be found everywhere, sometimes even given for free on the street with ads printed on it. But for effortless and more powerful cooling everyone has been embracing portable hand-held electric fans. From simple to super kawaii, big and small, they are especially popular with young people. There are also small fans worn as necklaces and fans that look like headphones blasting cool air left and right. Apart from the portable, there are small USB fans for your desk and a big electric fan works wonders when paired with air-conditioning in a room because it moves the cold air around.

    7. Cooling fabric clothes, bed covers, everything!


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    Cooling fabrics are one step closer to the future! These fabric are cold to the touch, having a long lasting gentle cooling effect. The clothes made from these fabrics also have strategic holes for letting air come in and out. The bed covers are even better, especially for people that don’t want to or cannot blast air-conditioning throughout the night.


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    Some of these solutions might seem small or insignificant, but out there in the hellish heat we need all the help we can get! Give them a try and see which one work for you best.

    *Featured Image from AC photo
    : AC photo/