Tokyo Heat

Our Favorite Items for Beating the Tokyo Heat

Whew, boy, Tokyo is in the grip of a punishing heatwave and it’s only June! The average high for this time of year is only 24°C (75°F), but the news is predicting temps close to 40°C (104°F) for the next couple of days. Luckily, Japan has lots of little gadgets, gizmos, and doohickies to help people survive these sticky conditions.

Grab a glass of water, pull up a seat by the air con, and let us tell you about our favorite items for beating the summer heat.



A little breeze goes a long way
in lowering the feel-like temperature, so hand-held fans have long been a must-have item for the Japanese summer. You’ll even find many businesses handing out free plastic ones this time of year instead of the usual tissue packs ads. For something more portable and a bit more eco-friendly, there are traditional paper folding fans, available for as little as a 100 yen. Of course, this being Japan, there are high-tech versions as well, including hand-held rotating fans with built-in misters that charge via USB.


Where I come from, parasols fell out of popularity round about the 1900s, but they’re still a common sunny weather accessory for women in Japan. More and more men are beginning to use them too, resulting in the phrase higasa danshi (parasol man) becoming a buzzword a few years back. And it’s no wonder: compared with hats, which provide a bit of shade but trap heat around your head and block any breeze, parasols provide a broad skirt of shade for your whole body that reduces exposure to solar radiation by about 30 percent and feels several degrees cooler. I’ll admit I thought Japan’s parasol obsession was pure affectation when I first arrived, but it only took trying it once to become a convert. Try a standard brolly if you don’t believe me and soon you’ll be upgrading to a sun-brella of your own. With thousands of designs available—even some with built-in misters!— you are sure to find one that feels right for you.

Photo : Sun-umbrella can be purchased at Tabriz parasol.




Next-gen Fabrics
Obviously, wearing loose, breathable fabrics is a smart approach when the mercury starts rising. Luckily, Japan has an abundance of clothes made from next-generation fast-drying fabrics that wick moisture and heat away from your skin. Uniqlo’s AIRism brand is one of the most popular, thanks to its low price point and almost supernatural ability to curb BO, but lots of apparel shops have their own versions. Look for signage advertising clothes as suitable for “Cool Biz,” the government’s campaign to reduce air conditioning use by allowing more relaxed dress codes, and you’ll usually find designs is the latest miracle fabrics.


Cooling Wipes
Unless you have a gym in your building where you can shower before work, it’s hard to avoid getting hot and sticky on your commute, even if it’s just a short walk from the station. Nobody wants to marinate in that all day, so Japan has found a solution: deodorant body wipes! Sometimes called “body sheets” or “refresh sheets“, these handy little wipes come in small packs you can easily throw in a bag. Then, when you need a quick clean up, pull out a sheet and give yourself a wipe down. Not only do they knock out odor-causing bacteria and leave you feeling powdery dry, many of them have menthol as an ingredient for tingly full-body shivers of coolness. These handy wipes can be found at most any shop, including the ever-present conbini. Personally, I’m partial to Biore’s -3°C Hiya-sheet series, but there are a myriad of options to explore. Also, take it from someone who learned the hard way: although some wipes are OKed for use on your face, be extra careful around your eyes. Menthol in your peepers is no fun.

Photo credit: Our age



Cool Packs/Gel Pads
If you’ve been in Japan for the cold season, you are probably familiar with the little kairo heat packs, which use a chemical reaction to produce portable warmth. But did you know they have a hot weather counterpart? These junkan reikyaku pakku (instant cooling packs) are activated with a quick squeeze to mix the ingredients. The chemical reaction triggered then lasts about 30 minutes and has the cooling feel of an ice pack without the drippy mess. Plus, they can be used anytime, no freezer needed. There are also adhesive gel stickers called reikyaku shiito (cooling sheets) that you can apply to your body. They were originally intended for fever relief, but they work just as well to provide relief from summer’s brutal temps. Find both at your local drug store or home center.




Cooling bedsheets
Being too hot to sleep is one of life’s most irritating tortures and not everyone likes to sleep with the air conditioner blasting. The solution: cooling bedsheets. From mattress pads to sheets and pillowcases made from the aforementioned next-gen fabrics, Japan has tons of options to bring temperatures down in the bedroom. Budget furniture and home shop Nitori’s N Cool series is a favorite every year, but you should be able to find similar products anywhere bedding is sold.

Well, those are our favorites for surviving Tokyo’s brutal summers.


Photo credit: sleepy tofu



If you’ve found any other lifesavers, let us know in the socials. Otherwise, stay cool and hydrated out there, folks!