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10 tips to help you survive the Japanese summer

By Philip Kendall

Despite having enjoyed an extremely mild spring, summer in Japan has kicked off with ferocity. If you’re from more tropical climes and currently living in Japan, you’re likely wondering why everyone keeps moaning “atsuiiiii” (“It’s hot!”) and dabbing their faces with handkerchiefs. For the rest of us, though, summer is a sweaty nightmare than can not so much be beaten as endured.

Here are 10 tips for getting through summer without melting into a sad little puddle.

Whether this is your first summer in Japan or you’re planning on visiting soon, you’ll need the knowledge to beat the heat. Of course, much of this can be applied to summer in a number of other countries, but there are a number of Japan-specific summer survival tips that we think you ought to know.

1. The ice is right

A plastic water bottle filled three-quarters full and then put in the freezer for a couple of hours makes a great little portable pick-me-up. Rub it on your face and neck to freshen up, or sip at the slowly melting ice water to keep your thirst at bay. Be careful though. “Drinking too much freezing water at once in the plus 30℃ weather creates a sudden change in temperature inside your body that can do quite a number on your digestive tract,” warns our very own seasoned survivor Steven Le Blanc, who makes a frozen PET bottle his pal every summer. “Sip it, but don’t glug the stuff down all day long!” Wise words, sir.

2. Eco-friendly air-con

Whether it’s for the sake of the planet, your health or your wallet, using the air conditioning in your apartment isn’t always the best idea. With earthquakes aplenty, Japanese homes are typically built using very light materials, and double or triple-glazed windows are rare. While this may help with air circulation, it also means that home insulation is never especially good, and your lovely, air-con cooled room won’t stay that way for long. As a result, your conditioner has to work extra hard to keep the room comfortable, and that means bigger electricity bills and more ambient noise. Frequently moving between hot and cool environments can also play havoc with your respiratory system and can cause your eyes, nose and throat to dry out, leading to irritation and infection, so use that thing in moderation and set the thermostat to a comfortable – but not cold – setting.

But what about those hot and humid nights when you just can’t get to sleep? Wouldn’t life sans-AC be unbearable!? Well once again our chilled PET bottle pal is here to help.

Place a two-liter water bottle (again, two-thirds full) in the freezer and let it ice up. Next, stand the bottle (preferably in a large bowl or even a baking tray so that condensation won’t spill all over the floor) directly in front of your room fan. Believe it or not, the air blown by the fan will be chilled by what is essentially a large chunk of ice standing before it, helping bring the room temperature down. It’s quiet, it’s efficient and it won’t dry you out like air conditioning can.

3. Wipe, wipe

Regular readers will no doubt have noticed our fondness for body wipes, or ‘body sheets’ as they’re often known here in Japan. Basically just moist, deodorising tissues, these things are available in all manner of flavors; some with antibacterial agents; some adding a layer of drying powder to the body; others producing a refreshing ‘tingling’ sensation; the list is endless.

You’ll be needing at least two packs at any one time. Keep one in your bag to use when out and about, and keep the other at home in the fridge. The latter might sound like an odd place to keep cosmetics, but there really are few things better than walking through the door a sweaty mess and having a chilled, cleansing wipe waiting for you. Just be sure to close the pack properly or your cucumbers will start to taste a bit funky! Oh, and a word of warning for the guys: if you’re the sensitive sort, try to avoid rubbing any ‘ice type’ body sheets anywhere near your nipples or other delicate areas while freshening up in the restroom at work — those things can be a little too tingle inducing sometimes.

4. The classic cooldown

Have you ever soon those old ladies in the street or monks in temple gardens sprinkling water on the ground during summer? They’re not just doing it to wash away the tom-cat spray. "Uchimizu," to give its official name, has been practiced for hundreds of years in Japan and, as well as keeping dust down on dry days, has been proven to lower the temperature in the street by a couple of degrees. Although uchimizu is traditionally carried out by temple staff and people wearing yukata summer robes at events like summer festivals, it’s perfectly okay for anyone to do this around their home, and your neighbors will love you for it. Plus, it’s kind of fun.

5. Take those freebies

Pocket tissues are a popular and effective form of advertising here in Japan, with small packs often handed out in front of stations and department stores, each containing a small advert or sometimes even a discount coupon. In summer, though, you’ll often see staff handing out small hand fans made out of plastic or paper instead. Sure, you’ll end up walking around with an advert in your hand all day, but having one of these things to provide a gentle breeze is a lifesaver when you’re crammed in a hot train or stuck waiting for the lights to change in the midday sun. Just be careful not to gather too many of the things between now and the end of September.

6. Get out of the house

Why sit at home with your air conditioner on when someone else can pay the power bill? Becoming more and more popular each year, "cool share" in the summer and "warm share" in the winter are locally-run schemes that encourage people to gather in communal areas like public libraries, social centers, cafes and even museums, often offering discounts during the hottest and coldest times of year. As well as saving you money, getting out of the house also gives you a chance to meet other people, so switch off your own AC and spend as much time as possible in public areas where you can study, read or work. Your taxes fund these places, so you might as well make the most of them.

7. Get some summer ‘room wear’

Traditionally, Japanese bathe at night, and not necessarily just before going to bed either. Come home, strip off, wash up, have dinner and then you’re free to sprawl out on the tatami with a cold beer.

But what to wear on these hot, sticky nights? Cotton T-shirts are just going to suck the sweat up, and going shirtless is just asking for those pesky mosquitoes (don’t worry, we’re coming to them!) to come and nibble on you. Relax Japanese style this summer with some dedicated room wear, which you can pick up at most department stories or even good old Gap and Uniqlo. It may not look especially stylish, but if you get into the habit of bathing at night (and might we suggest a quick rinse in the morning?) and slipping into them when you’re sure you’ll be staying at home for a while no one will ever have to see your unusual threads. Even better, grab a traditional "jinbei" summer jacket and shorts, which are usually made of breathable hemp, to stay extra cool when relaxing at home.

8. Chemical warfare

"Ka," the wonderfully short Japanese word for mosquito, is something that you’ll hear a lot this time of year. Nature’s very own ninja vampires, they sneak in while you’re sleeping and feast on your blood. We appreciate that the females have to do this in order to produce eggs, and we hate to stand in the way of the miracle of life and all that business, but when mosquitoes buzz next to your ear at 3 a.m. and vanish into thin air the second the bedroom light is switched on and leave you with red, itchy lumps the next day, they’re a real pain in, well, wherever they bite you. We’ve already shared a great tip for dealing with the swelling of a mosquito bite, but it’s far better to stop them getting at you in the first place.

Mosquito repellants are available in all shapes and sizes in Japan, with plug-in vaporizers and old-school "katorisenko" coils that burn slowly (and create quite the smell, so are best used outdoors), but brands like Mushi Konaazu which can be hung in a window or next to a doorway work wonders keeping the little blighters away, sometimes for up to two months at a time. Hang a couple of these in strategic locations around your apartment and you’ll spend far fewer nights wandering around in your underpants hunting for near-invisible flying beasts with a rolled-up magazine.

9. The sound of summer

Wind chimes – or "furin" in Japanese – are traditionally hung up during the summer months. Placed in the window rather than out on a porch or in a back yard, these tiny little bells chime softly whenever a slight breeze enters the room, having an incredible soothing effect. Perhaps it’s just a case of classical conditioning, but after a few days of feeling a gentle breeze every time that tiny bell rings, the mere sound begins to help us feel cooler. What better way to spend a lazy summer’s day than sprawling out in your "jinbei" reading comics while the breeze provides a subtle soundtrack?

10. Know your ice cream

We may have put this one in at No. 10, but don’t for a second underestimate the importance of ice cream. More than just a sweet treat, ice cream is the perfect snack to help you cool down in summer, but with so many flavors and brands out there to choose from it might take a while before you find a winner. Sure, there are richer, more sophisticated ice creams out there, but we’re going to cut to the chase right away and say that GariGari-kun popsicles/ice lollies/ice candy/whatever you want to call them are not only genuine Japanese classics, but they’re perfect for surviving the long summer stretch.

Retailing for around 60 yen each, they won’t break the bank, but they’re seriously tasty and great for quenching your thirst. As well as being available in soda and pear flavors all year round, there are even limited edition varieties to try, including the hard-to-find but surprisingly tasty corn soup flavor. Even better, if you find the 当たり (atari) message written on your popsicle stick, you get another one free.

Read more stories from RocketNews24. -- Beat the Heat with These Uchiwa -- Chochikukyo: Japan’s original eco-friendly house -- We find the best deodorizing sheets

© RocketNews24

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

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We’ve already shared a great tip for dealing with the swelling of a mosquito bite


4 ( +4 / -0 )

“Uchimizu,” .... has been proven to lower the temperature in the street by a couple of degrees.

But it's only a waste water! Proven? By whom? Only superstition, I think. People say, "It's Japanese culture" but it means "There are no fact"

0 ( +5 / -5 )

"Only superstition, I think"

Evaporation has a cooling effect by extracting heat from the ground. Not just superstition, I think.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Instead of resorting to "chemical warfare" for mosquitoes, why not just put some screens on your windows?

It's not hard to do, it's cheap if you make them yourself, and you can leave your windows open all night without worrying about what the spiders are doing to you while you sleep.

2 ( +2 / -0 )


Those vaporizers they mention in the article have DDT in them. Check the back before you buy. Even if you can't read jpns, it will say "ddt" in the ingredients.


Yeah it gets a little cooler, maybe, but where? One little section of sidewalk. And if the wind blows, it is gone. (Of course the wind going thru a house w/ both ends' windows open will therefore be cooler, one of the reasons for doing it) But, For how long?? Until it dries. =not so long.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Air conditioner. Period

7 ( +8 / -1 )

This list just made my list of top ten worthless lists.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

Telling people not to use their air conditioners is just silly. There is nothing wrong with using it if you know how or already accustomed to it like many Americans are. Recently I read a website basically explaining what many Americans already know about the costs of an Air con. Turning it on and off constantly actually wastes energy because it takes allot of energy to power it on and have it cool down the room you are in especially if it is a big room. It is more cost effective to leave it running on a comfortable setting so that it doesn't have to work extra hard to cool the room down every time you turn it back on. My mother in law turns hers on and off every 10 minutes thinking she is saving energy when she is actually wasting it.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Cool Tech t-shirts and briefs.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Get the screens. I had a giant hornet pay me a visit one summer - I've never left them open since.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Screens on the windows are absolutely necessary in most of Japan, but Ka often come in the front door with you and hide until the room goes dark and they can hear that your breathing has relaxed and you have drifted off to sleep.

Not yet switched on the aircon this year, but I am using a fan at night. But No.2, Para 3! That frozen bottle idea in front of the fan is brilliant. I am definitely trying that tonight! :clap:

3 ( +4 / -1 )

"everyone keeps moaning "atsuiiii"

I don't moan that, I exclaim, "It's nice and balmy today!" ( tomorrow too )

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

My g/f just bought a 'cooling sheet' to use while sleeping (5,000 yen) and it seems to be working really well for her. A bit pricy, but when you measure it against how much better you'll sleep, well worth it, IMO.

1 ( +2 / -1 )


IPA - definitely!

The antidote to summer heat - and a lot of other things!

Yona Yona Beer is becoming widely available. They have an Ao Oni IPA that really hits the spot.

A little expensive, but well worth it!


1 ( +1 / -0 )

I have bamboo blinds on every window in the house and just leave my laundry window open so that the air can blow through to the rest of the place, under the doors. I have the A/C on, but turn it off at intervals. The fan needs to be on all day, I do have cats and they are good at finding places to cool down, as long as they have lots of drinking water! Strangely enough, drinking coffee actually cools me down, I am not a lover of cold cold drinks but a lovely iced towel does help when I have to go out, at least to get to the train station. And, I don't think it's too feminine to see men carrying Summer umbrellas. It is a smart thing, next to wearing a hat!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Last night I tried the iced bottle in front of the fan trick as per the photo above. With all this rain it was probably not a good time to do it as I woke up cold several times during the night. Definitely has potential, though.

Went to sleep at one am and at 8 this morning I found the ice completely reverted to water and the bottle not cold to the touch. The base bowl contained about 1 cm deep of condensation run-off within it.

Yes, I will definitely try this again. Thanks for the tip!

1 ( +1 / -0 )

This article was originally from Rocket news, so the link for the mosquito info is here.


I want to try the ice in front if the fan thing. I saw a something in the store that had a similar idea. It was basically ice packs that you could put in front of a fan, but it cost 3000 yen, and I just felt the price was too high for ice packs.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

A hot bath helps you feel cool. It is counter-inuitive, but tt opens the capilliaries up nicely. A cool bath is a waste of time - you get hot again the moment you step out of the bath.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Leave!!! Spend the summer somewhere, anywhere where it's not so miserable. I absolutely hate summer in Tokyo!!!

0 ( +2 / -2 )


What!!! And leave all the people who depend on me in a lurch?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Serrano: Take them with you! Maybe a little decrease in the population will cool the place down for those who have to stay!

0 ( +1 / -1 )

lf you are 'popular' with mosquitoes, apparently a little malt vinegar on your ankles or neck helps keep them away from you.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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