Summer in Japan will probably be unlike summer in your home country. From the American side, everything is over air-conditioned and you almost never feel hot inside a building. My first summer in Japan was kind of miserable and I wish someone told me that Japan was an energy-saving country because they don’t turn on the air conditioning everywhere. When you first step off the plane into Narita International Airport, a harsh reality check will commence. You’ll most likely be hot and sweaty from traveling for such long hours and there is no cooling system. Cue more swass. When you arrive at your apartment, don’t over air condition because it’s super expensive and just as bad as going out into the heat. Even those of you from warm climates are not safe.
The most important part to remember is to let your body adjust to the heat as much as you can. Instead of turning the aircon all the way down, turn it up a couple of degrees and slowly turn it up higher. Here’s some tips to help you survive your first summer in Japan and make the most of it!
1. Small desk fan, a sweat towel, extra clothes
If you bike to work or run around with kids all day, it might be a good idea to bring an extra change of clothes. Every school is different, but mine didn’t turn on the air conditioner until 9:30, so everyone suffered until 10 minutes into the first period. A small desk fan will help you stay cool while waiting for the air conditioning to turn on. You can get the desk fan and sweat towels at the 100 yen store.
2. Cooling wipes
These were a life saver when you discover them. Wipe them on your body and feel the icy effect take place. They feel so good after you’ve been sweating. Be careful not to use the body wipes on your face because they sting. Usually, there are separate wipes for that. Gatsby is a popular brand and I often find these at the convenience stores. There are also different wipes for men and women. As you can see, the women’s wipes are super cute, but the men’s wipes pack more punch. Pick your flavor.
3. Airism, dry-tech clothes, and cotton clothing
Some JETs have suggested going to Uniqlo and getting the Airism clothes. These are designed to keep you cooler and evaporate the sweat from your body faster. The dry-tech clothes also do the same and it’s a good idea to have tank tops and shirts with this technology. Whatever your preference is, I prefer loose cotton clothes and cotton undershirts.
For the ladies: Remember you’re in Japan so no showing your armpits, shoulders or cleavage. Try to find clothes that fit the above criteria that will keep you cool. I struggled with this, but I find solace in taking off my pants after work. 😉
4. Don’t be self-conscious about sweating
Coming from an American standpoint it feels unprofessional to sweat in a professional setting. The Japanese don’t really have a negative stigma against this. If anything you’ll always hear, “You have good circulation! You must be so healthy.” If you’re sweating, chances are everyone else is too and it’s not that bad. If you feel self-conscious, you can always make your own stay cool bag.
For the ladies: Since I sweat so much in the summer, I recommend you bring your own tight shorts to go under your skirts or dresses. It helps lessen the chub rub probability and sweating onto your clothing and furniture. If you wear makeup use a primer or makeup setting spray.
Some JETs have suggested bringing your own sunblock from home if you’re particular about what you like. I use Aveeno SPF 85 for my face and Banana Boat for my body. Others have suggested the Skin Aqua brand because it makes them feel less sticky in the humidity. The best kind to use in Japan is a water based one.
6. Stay hydrated
It’s easy to get heat stroke or dehydrated. Drink at least 1.5 liters or more a day. Aquarius just came out with a low-calorie sports drink to help combat the fluids you lose over the summer. Don’t underestimate what can happen to you in a climate you aren’t familiar with. Heat stroke is no joke in Japan and there are even signs warning to stay cool and hydrated.
7. Eat cold dishes
Cold soups, salads, soba and veggies are your best friend. Make juice and brew cold tea. Japan grows their vegetables in seasons and the foods that will help keep you cool are cilantro (if you can find it or grow your own), melon, cucumber and mint. These feel the best to me during the cold months.
If you want to make a summer kit/pouch:
Some things you should include in your kit are a handheld fan, cooling wipes, a sweat towel, oil blotting wipes, and deodorant. (You never know when you’re going to smell.) I also keep a small vial of perfume.
Take advantage of the free air conditiong at your school, the mall, or the movie theater. I hang out in the grocery store for longer than I have to sometimes just so I save money on the expensive electric bill. Swim at the community pool, find a nice river or lake, or go to the beach. Be prepared for the changes in your skin because a different climate and diet will cause changes in your body.