In terms of pure temperature, Japan’s summers aren’t all that bad. Daytime temperatures are often in the 32-34 degrees Celsius range, which is cooler than what you’ll find in many parts of the American southwest (this week’s highs in Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Dallas, for example, are 42, 40, and 39 degrees Celsius, respectively).
But while the sun itself may not shine as powerfully here as it does in some other parts of the world, midsummer weather-based health risks are no joke in Japan. On Tuesday, a woman living in the city of Yatomi, Aichi Prefecture, went out for a few hours in the afternoon. At some point after she left, her 28-year-old son set up a folding chair in their garden to catch some rays and work on his tan, something he’d done numerous times before.
However, when the woman returned home at around 3:20 in the afternoon, she found her son lying comatose on the chair. She immediately called the paramedics, who realized that the son had gone into cardiac arrest and rushed him to the hospital. Sadly, though, their efforts came too late, and the son passed away some 40 minutes after his mother had found him, with doctors attributing his death to the effects of heatstroke.
The woman isn’t sure how long her son was in the garden, but weather records from the neighboring town of Aisai show temperatures of 34.2 degrees C and 32.7 at 3 p.m. on the day of the incident. Again, by themselves those numbers might not seem so intimidating, but it’s important to also account for Japan’s high humidity. The combined effects of the two dehydrating weather factors can dry out the body with deceptively dangerous speed, even for someone who’s ordinarily comfortable, or at least happy, spending time in the sun, such as the sunbather in Yatomi.
After an unusually mild July, Japan has swung fully into its harsh summer weather in a hurry. On the day of the man’s death, 68 people in Aichi Prefecture were hospitalized for heatstroke, and the national Fire and Disaster Management Agency says that in the single week from July 29 to August 4, nationwide 18,000 people required emergency medical attention for the condition, with 57 cases being fatal.
So if you’re planning to soak up some summer fun in Japan, remember to stay hydrated. Luckily, the country has no shortage of vending machines and convenience stores stocked with bottles of water and sports drinks like local favorites Pocari Sweat and Aquarius. If you’re going out in mid-day, seriously consider covering up with a hat and maybe some light, breathable long sleeves, or maybe even going totally native and carrying a sun umbrella as many Japanese do. And if you’re absolutely committed to working on your tan, let a friend or family member know when you’re starting your sun session so they can come check on you, because once you realize you’re in danger, it may be too late for you to save yourself.
Sources: NHK News Web via Jin, Nitele News 24, CBC News, Nihon Keizai Shimbun
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