Japan isn’t traditionally thought of as a “hot” country, but let me tell you – Japanese summers are flipping roasting. Unbelievably warm, in fact – and with an atmosphere so humid that you can almost swim in it.
Now don’t get me wrong – summer is a great time to visit Japan. Not only are there fewer crowds, but it has a whole plethora of its own unique attractions – from delicious summer foods and crazy ice cream flavors to beautiful beaches, fantastic scuba diving, amazing hiking opportunities, and some really awesome summer festivals.
But there’s no getting away from the fact that it’s bloody boiling – and this can take some visitors by surprise, even if they have had a peep at the weather forecast before they travel. Sunburn isn’t the only danger – heatstroke is a real issue for those who fail to prepare adequately for the weather, and every year Japan sees a number of heat-related deaths and hospitalizations.
If you prepare correctly, however, there’s absolutely no reason why summer in Japan can’t be a thoroughly enjoyable time of year to travel. To help you beat the heat, we’ve made a short list with the title “Top tips to stay cool during summer!”.
Top up your sodium
Sweating lots in the heat can cause you to lose sodium, which can lead to a condition called hyponatremia. Drinking lots of water alone is not enough – you need to replenish your sodium levels too. The easiest way to do so is by drinking the occasional sports drink – such as the tantalizingly named “Pocari Sweat”. These contain sodium and are available from vending machines on practically every street in Japan.
Protect against the sun
This point is fairly obvious and we apologize for insulting your collective intelligence – but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Wear sun cream, wear a hat, cover your shoulders, seek out shady areas – or do as the Japanese do and carry a parasol. Whatever your preferred method, just be sure to protect against the sun.
Plan your day intelligently
From 12 noon until 3 pm is generally the hottest part of the day, so to escape the most intense heat, try to plan any indoor activities to take place in the early afternoon. It also follows that early mornings and late afternoons can be the most pleasant times of day for outdoor pursuits.
Try a “cool wipe”
The Japanese convenience store to the rescue again! Not only does the humble “konbini” keep you stocked up with heat-emitting pads in winter, but it can also provide cooling relief in the summer. Cosmetic brands Biore and Gatsby, available at most convenience stores, make “cool wipes” (wet wipes with a tingle) to cool the skin throughout the day.
In Japan, it’s a common practice to stick a cooling sheet on your forehead when you have a fever. Cooling sheets are used to take away heat, so they can also be used to cool down on a hot summer day after exercising or walking around. The blue side goes on your skin, so it may make you look like you have a white poultice on.
Ice spray instantly cools you when sprayed from over your clothes. The spray will change the color of your clothes for a moment, but it won’t be noticeable after a few minutes. If you don’t want to get your clothes wet, you can spray onto a handkerchief or towel and press it against your neck or wherever you want to cool.
Delicious Summer Food – Stamina with Cold Noodles
When it comes to Japanese summer food, one of the most iconic dishes is somen. This term refers to ultra-thin noodles made from wheat flour which are enjoyed with a cold, soy sauce-based sauce. Ingredients such as leek, mioga, (Japanese ginger), or white sesame are added as desired. An extra-fun way to eat this cool dish is called nagashi-somen or “flowing noodles.” That name is rather literal, as the noodles literally flow down a bamboo slide and you have to catch them with your chopsticks.
Zaru-soba and zaru-udon provide a similar cool noodle experience and are equally popular summer dishes. Hiyashi-chūka also falls in that category, referring to a dish of ramen noodles with cold broth, cucumber, ham, and fried egg. The slightly sour sauce makes for a refreshing taste!