A look at last week's high temperatures around the globe showed 34 degrees in Cairo; 33 degrees in Tehran; 32 degrees in Hanoi; and 39 degrees in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture.
In the first week of July, 2,594 people around the country were taken to emergency rooms with heat prostration -- a figure roughly triple that of the same week of 2012.
Japan has a number of recognized "heat spots," such as Kumagaya City in Saitama Prefecture and Tajimi City in Gifu Prefecture. But now, reports Spa! (July 23-30), the fierce heat seems to have spread to most parts of the archipelago, leading weathercaster Masamitsu Morita to claim that "Japan has already entered a period of epochal heat that only occurs once every millennium."
Morita cited a similar period that history records extended from the Hein to Kamakura periods, between 800 to 1,300 years ago.
The previous record for "manatsubi," days in which Japan's temperature exceeded 30 degrees, was 71, set in 1992. That same year had 13 "moshobi," in which the temperature exceeded 35 degrees.
According to Morita, Tokyo this year is on pace to exceed 2010, the previous record year with 11 "moshobi" -- and the most since temperatures began to be recorded in 1876.
Even worse, Spa! suspects that the weather news may be understating how hot it really is in certain parts of the capital.
"Through the 'heat island' effect, warm air from the city center is lifted and blown inland by ocean breezes coming from the southwest, and the Tokyo wards of Nerima, Itabashi and Kita are particularly vulnerable," explains environmental engineering professor Ikusei Misaka of the Nippon Institute of Technology, who adds such places as apartment blocks and parking lots that are surrounded on three sides by high buildings are the most likely places for superheated air to converge.
"The heat gets reflected off the walls of buildings and the surface of the asphalt, and in some places temperatures of up to 60 degrees are recorded," Misaka said.
Spa! dispatched reporters around the city armed with ordinary, store-purchased digital thermometers. They took temperature readings at 1.5 meters from the ground, about chest height.
The reporter who went to Kichijoji in the west Tokyo suburb of Misashino City visited an outdoor coffee terrace located seven or eight minutes away from the station building, where his thermometer read 41.6 degrees. He was to find out shortly afterwards that at almost the same moment he took that reading, a man in his 50s working at a nearby parking facility keeled over from heat prostration and had been taken by ambulance to a hospital.
"He pushed a bicycle inside," the man's co-worker told him. "At that time he appeared completely normal, but when he came out the exit, he collapsed. It's damn hot, and I don't feel that good myself."
According to the parking facility's supervisor, temperatures inside the steel-reinforced concrete building reached nearly 40 degrees.
Another reporter who went to a residential area near Oji station in Kita Ward was in for a rude surprise. In the shade of a five-story apartment building, he pulled out his thermometer. He couldn't be sure if the high temperature was from the buildup of reflected heat or due to retention of the heat on the road surface, but the thermometer readout gave an astonishing 49.5 degrees.
Some other "hot spots" Spa! reporters in the capital measured this past week included:
On a narrow lane in Tsukishima, Chuo Ward: 44.8 degrees.
At Shimura Sakaue in Itabashi Ward: 42 degrees.
In a residential area 10 minutes on foot from Ekoda station in Nerima Ward: 41.9 degrees.
- At a parking lot in Shinjuku's adult playground of Kabukicho: 39.8 degrees.
In a short sidebar, Spa! notes that Dr James E Hansen, recently-retired director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, had been quoted in the media as predicting there was a strong likelihood that 2013 would see existing temperature records broken around the globe.© Japan Today