I’ve long dreaded summer, it’s my least favorite season, at least in Japan.
Back in Europe, I didn’t mind the summers because they were dry heat.
It’s early July, the rainy season is more or less over now in Japan for this year, and temperatures are already mirroring those of last year on some days.
It seems that during the summertime in Japan no matter where I go, it’s almost like the heat keeps constantly bugging me.
To Survive The Summer In Japan
Here are some tips for surviving the Japanese summer heat –many of these tips will help you beat the heat and humidity of a Japanese summer.
I’m not kidding. I don’t know how to emphasize this enough. Your body needs water, and lots of it.
That amount of water your sweating needs to be re-hydrated.
DO NOT underestimate the heat
It will bring you down and you may suffer a heat stroke.
Heat strokes happen every single day in Japan because people don’t stay hydrated. Don’t take this lightly as it’s really dangerous.
I used to drink a 500mL bottle of water a day back in Europe, but after coming here, I started drinking 2-4L of water per day. If you notice that your head suddenly starts to hurt, it’s because you’re dehydrated.
You need to re-hydrate a.s.a.p.
The most important thing is to stay hydrated– A cold drink of water with lots of ice can do wonders in the efforts to cool your body. In addition, it’s calorie-free.
Buy an Air Conditioner
Yes, this is the most obvious one, but some apartments may not come with one. E.g. mine. I managed to survive a Japanese summer without the use of an AC up until the first week of August.
Yes, it was hard, and yes, it was hot, but it wasn’t impossible.
However, when August came up, the nights became too hot to handle and I had to buy an AC. I don’t personally use it during the day, just at night so that I can sleep comfortably.
Open The Windows
Try opening two windows on opposite sides of your house or apartment (if you have the setup). This allows for a great cross-breeze if the wind is blowing.
Close your curtains, blinds, and windows during the day, and open them up at night *(hopefully, your windows come with a screen, or else GINORMOUS bugs will come flying in).
You don’t want the sun rays and heat to heat up your house during the day, but you do want the *cooler* breeze to come in at night.
Install a fan in your window and turn it on at night
This will bring a cool breeze inside your house. You can also buy more than one fan and install them at various places in your house to get the airflow going.
Utilize Ice Packs
If you don’t have enough money to buy an AC, then freeze some ice packs and install them in front of your fan. This will send wind through the ice packs and make the wind feel a bit cooler.
You will need to repeat this process a couple of times per day as the ice packs will melt pretty quickly. You can also use frozen water bottles and place them in the front/back of your fan.
If you feel like you’d rather buy a fan that does all of that for you, you can buy a cooling fan and only need to add ice to the bucket inside the fan.
Sleep With An Ice Pillow
An ice what?! It’s a gel pillow that you pop into your freezer that freezes halfway so that it’s still squishy. Once it’s frozen, you place it inside the pillowcase and sleep on it. This way, your head will stay cool during the hot summer nights.
Invest In Some Cool Mattress Pads
Japan sells these cooling pads to go on top of your mattress. It keeps you cool while you sleep.
An alternative to this is to fill Hot Water Bottles with Ice Water, wrap them in cloth, and put them in your bed. Nothing like a cool-refreshing sleep to leave you recharged and ready to go.
Carry a Bag of Ice Packs
Some of my Japanese friends do this. They carry a “cooler” bag and load it with like 4 large ice packs. Whenever they feel too hot, they either hug the pack until they cool down, or they grab one ice pack and rub it all over their body to cool down.
Fight the heat during the daytime
If you’re home and don’t have an AC, you can always wet a long neck towel and wrap it around you. This only works ’til a certain point though.
The wet towel will no longer be effective after July as the air temperature is just too hot to make a difference.
Wet a long neck towel and put some ice cubes in it. Wrap it around your neck or place it over your head. This only works until the ice melt off. It’s a good temporary solution.
An inexpensive way to cool off when you get home is having a stock of frozen towels in the freezer. All you have to do is use the washing machine, fold the wet towels, pop it in a freezer, and take it out to wipe your sweat when you get home from the heat.
After wiping, just put the towel back in the machine.
Buy Cool Towels
You simply need to pour water over the towel and wrap it around your neck.
The towel supposedly keeps the water cool until it has all evaporated, to which you then fill up again. They sell these at various department stores.
Buy Sweat Wipes
We don’t have these in Europe, but they’re awesome! I buy the ‘cooling’ wipes. It basically wipes that you use to clean the sweat off your body. They clean your skin leaving a cooling agent all over your body. This works for 10-30 minutes.
Sense and Uchiwa
If you’re outside in the heat, then you’ll need to carry a portable fan. They sell them everywhere or give them out for free in front of stations, at festivals, or in convenience stores. The word for these is Sensu or Uchiwa.
Buy a Sun Umbrella
Make sure to stock up on antiperspirants
Some stores in Japan have a wide selection of foreign products - American brands like Speed Stick, Secret, Old Spice, Biore, etc.
If you are into natural deodorant products or want to avoid potentially harmful chemicals like Aluminum (the active ingredient in antiperspirants), this is a great place to shop.
A point to note stick deodorant isn't always as easy to find in stores in Japan for some reason.
Here is a selection of stores where you can find good effective deodorant products.
Tokyu Hands - Carries similar brands to Loft and some of that on Amazon. Some natural types as well. Worth a look. Can shop online or in stores around Japan (major cities).
Visit Somewhere Cool to Relax
It's also a good choice to go to a cool place on a too-hot day.
Go to the malls for some shopping
If you aren’t too keen on raising your energy bill or adding to the pressing energy problem, you can always mooch off of someone else’s air conditioning.
Department stores, shopping malls, food courts, all of these places have cool, refreshing Air conditioning.
Go to the movies, movie theaters are fully air-conditioned.
A visit to the beach at night, if you’re close enough to get there, can be surprisingly cool at night.
You don’t even have to swim either. Just hiking up your pants and wading into just a bit of the expanse that is the Pacific will help you beat the heat.
Visit a swimming pool and go swimming
I’m sure there’s some type of pool near where you live, it’s just about finding out where it is and how much it costs to use.
It’s great exercise, too. Get in shape and stay cool? You can’t really beat that.
Ingenuity at Home
You can spend your time comfortably at home with just a little ingenuity.
Buy a Dehumidifier
The reason you can’t sleep at night isn’t because of the heat, it’s because of the humidity. You furniture, clothes, bedsheets, and so on, all have this layer of humidity on them. Getting a dehumidifier will make your apartment so much more comfortable to live in.
if you have one, a dehumidifier, either to help take moisture out of the room for whatever reason (or the bathroom, closets, etc.) or to dry clothes, especially if you can't or don't hang your garments outside to dry or the weather is just, drowning your balcony.
I found the best model on the market is the Panasonic Hybrid model (Panasonic only) it's a little pricey at over 30,000 yen
It's also possible to get all-in-ones -- dehumidifier plus air purifier plus humidifier or different combinations of two of those.
Netsu Sama Sheet
If you need to cool down right away and you don’t have any ice on you, then you can use these fever stickers. They are called "Netsu Sama shi-to".
People usually use them when they are sick and their head is boiling hot. Stick it on any part of your body that feels too hot, and it’ll automatically cool it down. These work 5-10 hours.
I showed them to my friend from Serbia when she came to visit me and told her it was for her head. She took the box and stuck them everywhere on her body.
Get Cotton Sheets for Your Bed
Any other fabrics will just absorb the heat and bake you as if you were in an oven at night. Speaking of cotton, wear cotton clothing. It’s breathable and perfect for summer.
DO NOT wear polyester clothing. It absorbs all the sweat and traps it inside making you super uncomfortable all day/night long.
Turn off Electrical Appliances
Turn off your computer, lights, and appliances when you’re not home or at night. These not only use your electricity, but they also generate heat.
This is what was happening at my house: the sun warms up the house all day long, so it’s basically a little oven. Your computer generates heat (in my case, my iMac) + all the heat that’s been accumulated. It’s gotten to the point that my furniture, yes…my furniture is now HOT.
My chairs, my bookshelves, computer desk, carpet, etc, are all hot. I swear I could fry an egg on my desk. Also, my iMac has been shutting down automatically because it’s becoming too hot for it to handle.
Unfortunately, you can’t do anything about the solar heat that comes into your house, but you can try to limit the heat by turning off your computer and other electronics that may be using heat.
Here is a good personal tip
I often use get some fresh orange or fruit juice, pour into an ice palette, (a section divide is usually the best) freeze it overnight in a refrigerator, and then when desired, you have fruity ice cubes to have with water or to have on their own.
The occasional visit to Cold Stone Creamery, or Baskin Robbins never really hurts anyone.
Which reminds me... Advanced age does not diminish the extreme disappointment of seeing your scoop of ice cream fall from the cone!