The anticipation and excitement of Japanese summers is one felt by all ages. Schools are out, and it’s the season for summer festivals and fireworks displays. Beaches turn into little resorts with their ‘Umi no Ies’ beach huts, and people escape to the beautiful rivers to cool down. It is the season when you get to dress up in traditional festival wear such as Yukatas and Jinbeis and feel connected with Japanese culture and traditions. Unfortunately, this year due to Covid-19 (article originally posted Aug~Sept 2020), all summer Matsuris and events have been canceled. Don’t let that stop you from wearing a Yukata, though! Plan a day to dress up and get yourself some Kakigori or festival foods (even if it is from the grocery store next to your house) and take a walk around your town.
Although Summer brings all the excitement, it also brings something else: a wave of dreaded heat and HUMIDITY!
Don’t let that 30 C temp fool you- the heat index is another story.
The temperature may read 30 C – even 36 C at times, which is hot enough, but when the humidity level hangs at 80%+, it feels more like 40-45!
Take that sweltering heat and mix it with a society that uses public transportation as their primary form of travel, and you feel as if you are perpetually roasting in an oven.
So how does one enjoy the hot, humid summer without feeling completely miserable?
There are many great tips and products that the Japanese have invented to turn that sweat drenching heat into something a bit more bearable. Here is a list of things we recommend doing, to help you survive Japanese summers!
High humidity and loss of sweat make it incredibly easy to get heatstroke and become dehydrated. In Japan- EVERY YEAR- summer has a high number of deaths due to these conditions. You need to keep hydrated, so please drink up!
Japan’s ‘better’ version of Gatorade, is an incredible sports drink that was developed by a pharmaceutical company as a concept of a drinkable I.V. It replaces the water and electrolytes your body needs, after a heavy sweat. You can find it at any shop, convenience store, and most vending machines. Aquarius is another excellent option for a sports drink. (Just note that Japanese sports drinks are still full of sugar, so it’s probably not the best to be drinking several dozen a day!)
Japanese sports drinks can be purchased most anywhere that sells beverages.
Mugi-cha (麦茶) Japanese Summer tea
Roasted Barley tea is the drink of the summer in Japanese households. With many health benefits such as detoxifying, Mugi Cha is known most for its cooling effects. It reportedly cools you from the inside for a delightful, refreshing drink on a hot summer day.
This tea is stocked at any grocery store, convenience store, and vending machine!
Drink Your Water
If there is any time to be lugging around a huge water bottle with you, it is summer!
It is your body’s much needed life-force, to get you through the day.
Sweat is unavoidable during the summer months of Japan. You might feel like you never truly dry off after your shower and need to jump back in that shower again, to freshen back up.
A constant shower is not always an option, so here are some products and tips to help you feel fresh longer!
Biore Cool Body Freshening Sheets. When you want a midday freshening up, use these to feel clean and new.
Men’s Icy Body Sheets. Keep cool with these menthol sheets. Beware, some are very strong.
These types of sheets are used to wipe down your arms, neck, face, under your undershirt, and they leave you feeling nice and cool and clean!
Where to find these sheets? Sold at any drugstore like Matsumoto Kiyoshi and also convenient stores.
Neck Cooling Towels
These mini towels come with ice packs that, once frozen, can slip into the slots to wear around your neck and keep you cool. This one can be found on Amazon!
Keep A Fan on Hand
Traditionally, people carried paper fans around to cool them when outdoors.
Nowadays, you can find all sorts of fans- electric handheld fans, around the neck fans, fans powered through smartphones, a whole plethora of fans.
Whether you choose traditional or modern, make sure you don’t leave the house without one. Find them at most department stores, Loft, DonQuiote, or even find them online.
Small Hand Towel or Handkerchief
Always keep a small towel on you. You will be patting away the sweat all day long—all. day. long!!
Refreshing Foot Bath
After your feet have been keeping you going strong at the end of the day, relax them with a nice bath. Add some salts or oils to refresh yourself as soon as you get home. Can be found in electronics stores, such as Bic Camera.
Keep Those Pesky Mosquitoes Away
Probably the worst thing about summer is when those vicious mosquitoes show up.
Just a walk through the park, and at any given time, you could find your legs covered in mosquitoes! Thankfully, Japan has something for that too!
Skin VAPE or Mosquito Repellent
Something you should always keep on hand. Make sure you spray your whole body, and if you are wearing sandals, spray your feet as well. Somehow they find the one spot you forgot to spray even if it is on the bottom of your feet. Find these at drugstores or even your local grocery stores.
If you are hanging out on your balcony or planning a picnic outdoors, bring these coils and light one on fire. Mosquitoes dislike the smell and will stay away. Light it up! Again, able to find them at the local drugstores.
Okay- so you followed the above tips, but you’re still covered in mosquito bites. What to do?
For such a small insect, they leave a pretty big impact. You can feel the itchy burn as soon as they have left your skin. This liquid ‘Muhi’ is gold and brings instant relief. Where to find them? Yup, at the local drugstore or possibly your grocery store.
Enjoy the Local Summer Foods
Japan really knows how to survive the summers, and one way is through the stomach!
The Japanese love their seasonal foods, and you will too. It will give you something to look forward to each coming summer.
Zaru Soba (ざる蕎麦 / Cold Soba)
Soba is a year-round food, but Zaru Soba or Cold Soba is something to taste in the summer. A salty, yet slightly sweet, cold dipping broth that pairs perfectly with buckwheat noodles. Add in some spring onions, wasabi and seaweed strips for the perfect lunch.
Kaki Gori (かき氷 / Shaved Ice)
Of course, the same chunky shaved ice you grew up eating can be found all around the city, like traditional Blue Hawaii or Lemon flavored. Well- similar, anyway– Japanese shaved ice does have a specific consistency to the ice shavings, which can be quite different to the ice texture in other countries.
Leave it to Japan, though, to take something ordinary and make it extraordinary! Next level flavors like Matcha and Red Bean with Mochi balls, or Mango and Strawberry powdered snow that melts in your mouth. Treat yourself to a sweet cold dessert!
Hiyashichuka (冷やし中華 / Cold Ramen)
Once you start seeing these sold in the supermarkets, and even restaurants, you know that summer is here!
The most popular soup base is soy sauce, but Goma (sesame) soup is also drool-worthy. They typically get topped with ham, veggies, and a hardboiled egg! Enjoy when out or easily prepare it at home.
Cold, juicy watermelon- It’s the perfect summer snack. Of course, Japan makes everything with excellence, and you will find the sweetest melons you have ever tasted here. Also, try some peaches and nashi (Asian pear). You won’t be disappointed!
Stay Inside During Those Peak Hours!
The middle of the day is the hottest and most miserable. It is best to plan your outings or events in the early morning or after 5:00 pm.
Staying inside close to the aircon (A.C. unit) can feel both relaxing and refreshing. Although it is tempting to blast your aircon on the coldest temperature at the strongest wind speed, it is not always the healthiest idea. Going from extreme cold to extreme heat can weaken your body and lead to the summer cold. We know it feels good, but be careful when using your A.C.!
Not all of Japan’s summer survival has to do with the outdoors. Some inside action is needed, like tackling the scary black fungus called mold. It can show up all over the place as soon as the humidity hits, and the air becomes a bit staler. You might even find it growing on your shoes or clothes.
That’s why we love these little dehumidifier tubs (picture below) that suck up the moisture in the air to help prevent mold. We have a whole article that targets how to get rid of that nasty mold here. A read worth your time!
Even though Japanese summers can be HOOOOT and feel l000ong, there are many things to enjoy about summer here.
Japan does a great job of making each season exciting with ‘seasonal foods’ and ‘seasonal events.’
We know summer this year is looking a little different due to current events (originally posted Aug~Sept 2020), but don’t let yourself feel like you are baking/boiling away.
With the above tips and products, you can make the best of your summer and still enjoy all that this beautiful country offers.