10 ways to stay cool in Japan

It’s hot in Japan.  And I realize that people who are living in India or Morocco or somewhere that has a lot of cactuses are thinking, “Shut up and get over it, it could be worse,” but I’ve been spoiled with California weather for my entire life and my fragile little body can’t take the heat of Japan.

But Michelle, just go into an air conditioned room, you’ll be sure to cool off that way.  Wrong!  You think your precious air-con (air conditioning) is going to save you?  Think again.  I’m sitting at my desk on the third floor of the junior high with not one, but two air-cons blasting away and I’m still sweating like a fool.     


So in an effort to cope with this insane heat, I present to you 10 ways to stay cool in Japan.


1) Wear a towel on your head

When the humidity mixes with extreme heat, no one is safe from the onslaught of sweat that will inevitably begin to pour down your face.  In an attempt to combat the rain (reign) of sweat, many men (and me) choose to tie a towel on their heads.  I don’t even care how ridiculous it looks.  Desperate times call for desperate measures and I have to do everything and anything I can to stop my face from melting off.


2) Jump into the ocean

Run, hop, skip, jump, leap, belly flop, two-step, or do a jig into the ocean.  Hurry, just drop what you are carrying and get your sweaty self into that water.  I don’t care if there are boats around, I don’t care if the fish look hungry, just get in there and cool off!


3) Collect a free fan…or two…or ten

In the big cities, far, far away from Chibu, people line the streets handing out uchiwa (hand fans).  “Cool, free fan!” was my initial thought when I encountered this popular way of handing out advertisements in Japan.  “Hey, I got another one!” …and they just kept coming.  I soon had to hold three uchiwa in each hand, working double time to fan myself…but at least they were free and they did offer a bit of hot wind to attempt to cool my melting body. 


4) Tell ghost stories

Become so scared that the cold chill down your spine cools you off. 

Made even spookier by Obon, the period in August when spirits of ancestors are said to return for a visit, ghost stories have been used since the Edo Period as a way to ward off the summer heat.


5) Eat かき氷(Shave Ice)

A cup of fluffy snow covered in sugar syrup, you can’t go wrong eating kaki-gori in the land where it was invented. Dating back to the Heian Period (794-1185), Kaki-gori, or shave ice, is a beloved summer treat used to beat the heat.  I can’t stop eating it. 


6) Get Drunk

Let’s drinking!

Many commercials all over TV seem to encourage getting drunk as a way to combat (become numb to) the summer heat. Filled with images of sweaty girls in yukata having the time of their lives drinking beer in the summer sun, these commercials (or CM as they are called here) seem to support this method of “cooling down.”  When it’s so hot that the old folks are dropping like flies, just F it and get drunk. 

Rocking out and drinking beer with polar bears in Japan.  Oh, you don’t do that in your country?


7) Bust out the Cool Biz

Yes, let’s.

Before 2005, even during the dog days of summer with 80% humidity and soaring temperatures, businessmen and government workers would continue to wear full business suits.  Long sleeved button-up shirt, jacket, tie, pants; the works.  In an effort to save on energy costs (you gotta crank that A/C way up to keep those guys cool), the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) created the Cool Biz Campaign.  Cool Biz is a new dress code for the summer months, making it acceptable for workers to wear short sleeved button up shirts, light-weight pants, and to forgo wearing a neck tie.  Many people were weary of the new “relaxed” dress code, but Cool Biz (and this year’s Super Cool Biz Hawaiian shirt) is now in full use.  So don’t be surprised if you’re greeted by a businessman in a Hawaiian shirt, he’s just Super Cool.     

Looking cool

8) 大の字で寝る…Lie down on the floor in a position that looks like this:  (there really is a term for this in Japanese)

Sometimes, that’s all you can do to find any scrap of relief from the summer heat.  It’s a favorite position of barbecue party goers after being filled with grilled meat and beer.


9) 風鈴…Listen to the cooling tinkle of a fuurin (wind chime)

It is said that the sound of a fuurin (wind chime) has the power to cool you down; just sit and enjoy the tinkle of the glass and you will instantly feel slightly less like you are melting.  I’m not sure if the power of the wind chime has kicked in or my brain has finally started to cook, but I’m feeling better already…


10) Get desperate

How about cooling foam that can be molded to fit your wrist or neck? 

Or how about a big blue gel square to smack on your forehead in hopes of lowering your body temperature ever so slightly?

Slap that on your face and feel the cool.

Ice punch anyone?

a menthol based cooling spray

Ladies, why not try a cooling bra with built in ice pack?  I’m desperate enough to try it.





Joking aside, the aforementioned steps are actual methods that people use to cool down in the land of the burning sun. Khoa and I are trying the best we can to stay cool on our tiny island, but the heat is slowly starting to win this battle.  In hopes of cooling down, we’ll be doing number 6 and then consequentially number 8 later this evening.


Stay cool everyone! 



5 thoughts on “10 ways to stay cool in Japan

  1. tokyo5 August 8, 2012 / 4:48 pm

    Nice post! But how about wet tissue, oshibori, senpukki and “pool season”?

    Anyways … check out my blog!

  2. laura@eljaygee August 8, 2012 / 6:49 pm

    loved this resumee and insight in staying cool, japan style

  3. Art Zimmermann August 9, 2012 / 1:34 am

    I had a major smurk on my face from start to finish. The smartass apple does not fall far from the smartass tree.
    Love Ya,

  4. vivilinh August 11, 2012 / 10:28 am

    lol cooling foam made me laugh.

  5. Eleenie September 24, 2012 / 10:55 pm

    Haha! Number 6 is always my way forward in the summer heat 😉

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