How can you keep cool during summer in Japan, even on the hottest and most humid days? This week, we answer this question! For more questions on moving to Japan, surviving daily life in Japan, and more, Guidable is here to help. Submit your own questions at the bottom of this post!
Question: How can I stay comfortable outside during summer in Japan?
Looking around me, I see Japanese people in long-sleeves and full pants, and yet they’re hardly sweating at all! Meanwhile, I’m so hot I almost feel sick. How do Japanese people stay cool and comfortable during the summer, and what can I do to enjoy my time outdoors too?
Japanese summers are truly brutal: in recent years there have been record heat waves, and humidity levels reaching around 80% are the norm. Your home country may not have been so hot, and even if it was, you may find that the weather feels especially muggy and uncomfortable in Japan (especially in urban areas) compared to what you’re used to.
Japanese people may appear relatively comfortable despite the heat, but just like you, they can easily suffer heat exhaustion and heat stroke too. That’s why many unique products have been developed to help people in Japan beat the heat, and there are many other tips and tricks Japanese people commonly use to keep cool when the temperatures rise.
If you want to enjoy your summer outings, and not fall victim to having to tether yourself to your air conditioner all day, here’s some advice to try:
Choose Lightweight Clothes and Masks
You likely already know the importance of dressing right for the season, but here’s a reminder just in case: wear breathable, lightweight clothes made of natural fibers. Many brands in Japan, such as Uniqlo, market special cooling clothes during the summer months, so take advantage of these options while they’re available!
And remember, even though wearing long-sleeves and full pants may look really hot, many people in Japan do this in order to protect themselves from the sun and keep the heat off their skin. If you prefer tank tops and shorts, that’s fine! But sometimes, covering your skin a little more than you may be used to, assuming you choose garments with airy fabrics, can actually help keep you cooler.
When dressing for summer this year, be sure to remember your mask, especially as the coronavirus continues to spread. Cotton masks or disposable masks tend to be the lightest, and be aware of how the mask fits your face. Though it should fit snugly over your nose and chin, make sure to choose a fit that isn’t too tight. If it leaves marks on your face, you may need a bigger size.
If you feel that your mask is getting too moist from sweat, bring a spare that you can swap out mid-day. And if the heat is still too much to handle, look on store shelves for mask cooling sprays and cooling packs, which have become especially popular in Japan during the pandemic.
Replenish Your Body
The right food and drinks can do wonders for lowering your internal temperature. Drinking water is important for your health, but don’t forget to get essential minerals, too. Japanese sports drinks and mugicha (barley tea) are ideal options, as well as keeping some salt candies in your bag to munch on throughout the day.
There are also many seasonal foods that can help you refuel and rehydrate, such as shaved ice and watermelon. See our full list here of popular summer foods in Japan for some ideas.
Appreciate the Art of Japanese Fans
Sensu, or folding fans, are symbolic of traditional Japanese culture, often covered in beautiful decorative designs and held together by bamboo. You can still find this type of fan in Japan today, as well as handheld fans that stay flat without folding. In fact, these paper fans are so ubiquitous, stores even give them out for free on the streets as an advertisement for their businesses.
Try out these fans, or upgrade to today’s high-tech options such as mini handheld fans that charge via USB, fans that hang around your neck to keep your face and upper body cool, and even jackets with fans built-in.
Use Umbrellas on Sunny Days
You might think umbrellas are only meant for rainy days, but Japan will prove you wrong. It’s common to see people with black and UV-blocking umbrellas on the most sweltering hot days of summer in Japan. If you’re not used to using an umbrella on a clear day, it may look silly, but standing under one of these umbrellas not only protects you from the sun’s damaging rays, but also keeps your body cooler.
Don’t Forget Towels and Wipes
Perhaps the most basic tip of all is to utilize towels and wipes to keep yourself from overheating. Towels can be soaked in cold water and placed on your body (such as on the back of your neck) to help you keep cool, and dry towels can be used to wipe away unwanted sweat.
There are also many cooling wipes (sometimes called “body sheets”) on the market in Japan packed with ingredients like menthol to help you wipe your parched skin while feeling icy cool.