Moving to Japan from an area that’s generally pretty hot all year-round meant that I was somewhat prepared for the massive heat waves this country gets. Unfortunately, since I came from a dry heat area, I was not prepared for the sticky humidity that came with the almost unbearable heat. My first summer was not a pleasant one, and the experience served to show me that sometimes traveling to cooler climates during the summer was the better option. That, or be prepared to battle the heat and humidity from June to October.
How Hot Does It Get?
Japan’s temperatures not only get well above 35˚C(95˚F) in the summer, but humidity can go as high as 80%. Compare that with a dry heat of 120˚F (49˚C) and you’ll realize it’s more like you’re drowning with all the moisture in the air around you.
In my office, there are strict rules for when the air conditioner and heater can be turned on, mainly due to electricity consumption concerns. I’ve had to sweat it out in my work clothes on more than one occasion, though there is also a ‘cool biz’ dress code policy in place that allows for less formal clothes to be worn to beat the heat. Some offices are just plain terrible with the way they try to regulate temperature, and as such you might see people bringing blankets to work during summer because of how cold the boss makes their workspace.
What Do You Do To Survive?
The short answer: whatever it takes.
The long answer: utilizing multiple resources that will likely include time and money, there are many different ways to ensure that you don’t melt like a popsicle during Japan’s summer season. Those that have lived in Japan for more than a year usually get a good idea about what works best for them for surviving the summer. Thankfully, I’ve compiled a nice little list of the top tips and tricks I’ve either heard about or tried myself to give you a couple of ideas of how to stay alive despite the high temperatures.
Tips And Tricks To Beating The Heat
Here are my four biggest tips and tricks to beating the heat in Japan during the summer season:
1) Air conditioner 24/7
For those coming from other countries, it may sound crazy to leave your air conditioner running even when you’re not home. This tip is only if you’re mainly going to be in your house throughout the day, own a pet, and/or have a Japanese air conditioner that’s made to run for long periods of time without issue. Using a fan might give you temporary relief, but honestly it’s the humidity that makes the heat inside a dwelling unbearable – hence the use of an air conditioner to not only cool, but also dry out the air.
For my first summer in Japan, I didn’t exactly trust my air conditioner to be able to handle long periods of time pumping out cold air. I didn’t want to have to call the company that was in charge of my apartments to tell them that I broke my life-saving machine by running it too much. During my most recent summer, however, I left the air conditioner on for hours, only turning it off if I was going to be away from my home for an extended period of time. The place was cooled, I didn’t die from heat, the air conditioner didn’t die from the extensive periods of use, and my electricity bill wasn’t as nearly high as I thought it’d be from so much electrical consumption.
To put it simply, Japanese air conditioner units are made to run for long periods of time without guzzling electricity or breaking down, so don’t be afraid to use it if needed.
2) Spend afternoons inside shops
If you’re really against using an air conditioner, or for some reason yours doesn’t work or is nonexistent, a good tip I got from a first-year friend in Japan was to make your way to the local shops during the day. Shopping malls, grocery stores, clothing stores, electronic stores, recycle shops; all of these places are practically walk-in refrigerators during the summer.
As an Australian once told me at the airport, “Japan is incredible! You walk into a store when it’s hot outside and it’ll be cold! You walk into a store when it’s cold outside and it’ll be warm! How do they do that?!”
I’m not sure, but I’m glad they do. Nothing feels better than walking into a freezing cold shopping mall and feeling the numerous sweat spots on your body start to freeze and dry up.
3) Wear undershirts
Along with energy-efficient air conditioners and stores that are delightfully cold, Japan also has a large industry geared towards making clothing that keeps you cold when it’s hot or hot when it’s cold. Their major store that sells this products, Uniqlo, proudly dishes out HEATTECH and AIRism clothing for both men and women. As the names suggest, HEATTECH is made to keep the body warm during cold weather, and AIRism allows the body to breath and feel cooler during the hot seasons.
Along with wearing an undershirt that’s proven to decrease your body temperature and make you feel more comfortable in the heat, AIRism clothing is also great for soaking up sweat and making sure your business shirt, blouse, t-shirt, or whatever it is you choose to wear on a hot summer day is dry and without unsightly sweat marks. It’s not even the heat that will really get the sweat flowing; rather, it’s the humidity.
4) Work outside early or late
If you have to do outside work, such as gardening or manual labor, it’s best to either start early in the morning or wait until after the hottest time of the day has passed. This may seem like common sense, but many foreigners and Japanese people alike fall victim to heatstroke each year by refusing to change their personal schedule for outside activities. Having to work at your job during the heat is one thing, but planting your garden, engaging in taxing sports, or moving outside supplies can wait.
If you’re unable to change the scheduling of when you’ll be exerting energy outside in the sun, be sure to stock up on plenty of water and sunscreen. Straw hats are commonly used all over Japan, and no one will give you a strange look for trying to protect your body from the sun’s harsh rays. It’s more likely you’ll see locals wearing even stranger apparel to keep the sun off of their skin!
Japan, much like many regions around the world, can get exceedingly hot. Some people can’t handle it, and others love it. Regardless of how you feel about the summer heat, it’s important to take care of yourself and make sure you’re protected from heat stroke, sunburn, and just plain dying in the fiery hell that your living space has become. With a bit of preparation and determination, it’s not impossible to have a comfortable summer in the land of the sun.