How to Survive the Japanese Summer

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Summer in Japan is hot, sticky, and almost umbearable.

Last year saw the mercury rise to over 40 degrees – and while there are plenty of places that get hotter – few seem to be stickier. 

With near maximum levels of humidity, simply stepping outside will cause you to break out into a fully-blown sweat. If you have a long commute or walk to your hotel, say hello to the shower the second you get back.

Why is the Japanese Summer so Awful?

There are a lot of reasons why summer in Japan may feel a lot worse than what you’re used to. Here are a few reasons:

1. Lots of walking (tourism, commuting, etc.)

2. Heat island phenomenon (higher temperatures in cities due to human-related factors such as the overuse of air conditioners on a large scale).

3. Hot nights (In mid-summer, Japanese night temperature can be nearly 30 degrees – meaning sweaty beds and hot mornings.

4. High humidity (really high)

How to Prepare for the Heat

Apart from the obvious ways (plenty of water, suncream, and hats), Japan has come up with quite a few handy ways that help us battle on through the day.

Cool sheets/wipes (bought at most 100-yen stores, these body wipes give your skin a cool sensation)

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Cooling body wash (similar to above, makes your skin feel cool for 20-minutes after the shower)

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Cool Technology – “Cool tech” is the opposite of “heat tech” – a design in clothes and bedding that help keep your body cool and often has a “hinyari” texture.

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Ice blocks – put them in your freezer, get them out when you’re too hot or when you go to sleep. (Also available at most 100-yen stores.)

Hand fans (uchiwa, sensu) – A traditional one, but helpful nonetheless. (Also available at most 100-yen stores.)

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Sports drinks – cheap 2l bottles of sports drinks can be bought in most supermarkets at a decent price. Of course, there are more expensive ones such as Sweat (yup).

Parasol (higasa) – the parasol is back, and not only for women! Japan is trying to push the use of the parasol on men too (by coining the phrase “bidanshi” [parasol gentleman]). And if you’re really cool, you’ll get the hat version.

In Summary

In summery, the summery Japan can be summed up into this:

It’s hot (maybe not as hot as some places), but high humidity and hot nights don’t let up – so it’s best to prepare with a few cooling products.

No More Hangovers With Ukon no Chikara (The Power of Turmeric)

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While it may be very different from how it is in the UK, Japan nevertheless has a massive drinking culture. Not only do most companies simply recommend binge drinking; they organize it – book it – and make it almost impossible to turn down. 

Then it should come as no surprise that a country like this has a huge market for hangover-free magic cures (preventative-cure?). In fact, if you go into one of Japan’s bazillion doraggu sutoa (drug stores), you can find a huge variety of little drinks, gels, and powders that will (apparently) leave you not feeling like a grape that’s been left out in manatsubi (a day in the middle-of-summer).

One of, if not the most popular is known as ‘Ukon no Chikara‘ (literally: the power of turmeric). Turmeric, for those who don’t know (virtually everyone?), is a relative of the ginger plant and is supposedly meant to prevent futsukayoi (a hangover).

Types of Ukon no Chikara

There is now quite the range of Ukon no Chikara products you can purchase over the counter. From the original, to ‘Ukon Super’, to a variety of fruity flavors, and even a variety of forms (liquid, powder, jelly).

Each variety contains a different amount of different varieties of the turmeric plant (spring ukon, fall ukon, purple ukon), as well as curcumin and a bunch of other stuff that I’ve never really heard of but I presume do something. 

Does it actually work?

The drink is recommended to be taken around 30 minutes before you start smashing back the beers from the nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink), but it can also be taken in the morning or during drinking. 

I have tried it from the little bottles and from the jelly, and yes, it does work to an extent it is worth buying (of course, being responsible/prepared and drinking plenty of water (or sports drinks) before/after drinking also works). 

I’m not even sure if they sell the jelly version anymore since I haven’t seen it in years, but it worked wonders. Perhaps sucking the jelly out of a little plastic sachet just isn’t appealing as drinking it from a small aluminum bottle? 

At the end of the day, if you know you’re going to be in for a long night of drinking, give your sorry future-self a break and spend a couple of hundred yen on something that’ll ease your pain come the morning.