Summer is intensely hot in Japan. While people have their own different ways of dealing with the heat, most stay inside air-conditioned rooms all day. However, this was not the case in the past as the older generation used a different method of cooling down. Their method is called “uchimizu,” which comes from the Japanese words “utsu” meaning “hit” or “strike” and “mizu” meaning “water.” This is the reason why you’ll often see wet streets during the summer days which can leave you wondering, “When did it rain?”
It is quite easy to get a heat stroke if you don’t know how to properly deal with Japan’s summer season. Some of the things to watch out for, especially for those who are not used to high temperature and humidity, are exposure to direct sunlight and poor room ventilation. It is very important to get out of the heat and stay hydrated at all times.
Furthermore, wear light and comfortable clothes. Many stores in Japan, such as UNIQLO and Gap, offer clothes that are specially made for the summer season.
If you find yourself sweating a lot, you should drink plenty of water to make up for all the fluids lost. Always carry body wipes with you so that you can wipe off your sweat and have that refreshing feeling. You can also opt to stay in an air-conditioned room all day, but this can be too expensive if you do it on a daily basis.
So what is this traditional way of cooling down in Japan called “uchimizu?” If you happen to see old ladies sprinkling water on the ground, that’s basically what uchimizu is. It is said that this practice is done to get rid of dust in the streets but is actually also believed to lower the temperature.
Traditionally, uchimizu is done while wearing a summer kimono or yukata and using a bucket and a ladle. Then, people sprinkle water around their homes to cool down the temperature. Since cities heat up faster than the rural areas as buildings absorb and retain more solar radiation, uchimizu is a perfect way to cool down the heat. People who use the method of uchimizu generally conclude that it works in lessening the temperature.
Don’t be surprised if you happen to see people dressed in yukata sprinkling water on paths and pavements. This is a widely accepted tradition in Japan, especially during summer days, which makes the cultural traditions and practices in the country even more interesting.