In Japan, summer without air conditioning is unthinkable even if you’re in Hokkaido, which sees snow for nearly half the year. But what about when you have to brave the heat and humidity outside? Here are some tips to save you from melting into the ground like a formerly-frozen ice cream.

Practical Advice

We recommend staying inside with the air conditioning on between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. as much as possible.

Take Measures to Avoid Heatstroke

The number of people being hospitalized due to heatstroke increases every year, leading councils to issue warnings come summertime. There are several ways to prevent heatstroke if you do have to leave the house, like wearing hats, moving slowly, staying hydrated and keeping up your salt intake. The last two points are very important: They replenish the water and salt you lose from sweating so much.

Get To Know Your Air Conditioner

A great feature of the Japanese air conditioner is its dehumidifier function. One of the worst things about the summer here is the humidity. The dehumidifying button is called joshitsu, and we thoroughly recommend hitting this setting to ease yourself into the summer, rather than simply blasting out icy air, as it’s kinder to your body.

Be Aware of Train Carriages

Did you know that train carriages are coded depending on the strength of the air conditioner inside? Look above the doors (and sometimes on the platform) for the Japanese kanji characters, 弱 jaku or 強 kyou. The former means weak and the latter strong. Pick your fighter.

staying cool in summer in japan

Ways To Stay Cool Using Technology

Japan has some technological fixes to help you stay upright during the sweltering heat.

Neck Cooler

The neck cooler is good for around 30 minutes, perfect for when you need to run errands outside. Simply put it in the freezer then take it out when you’re ready. For a cheaper alternative, get an ice pack and wrap a towel around it to sit on your neck.

Cool Wipes

Cool wipes from Gatsby contain menthol and many people like them. Buy a pack or two and wipe all your crevices. Be careful to test your body’s sensitivity before committing to purchasing several packets, and make sure to recycle as “burnable waste” when you’ve finished.

staying cool in summer in japan

Ways To Stay Cool Using Traditional Japanese Methods

Of course, Japan has indisputably tropical climes like Okinawa, and has been used to relatively warm summers for hundreds of years.

Handheld Fan

The handheld fan, known as a sensu in Japanese, is a great way to give yourself a gust of wind. In extremely hot temperatures of late, this may just work to waft some warm air around, but it’s better than nothing. You can buy a sensu at any 100-yen store, or head to an independent shop to support the locals.

A sensu also makes for a great gift if you’re traveling, so you can recycle it that way.


Uchimizu, the tradition of water sprinkling was practiced as a courtesy during tea ceremonies in the Azuchi-Momoyama period (1568–1600), although splashing water on the ground to beat the heat is more recent, dating back to Edo times, around two hundred years ago. You may witness it while you’re in Japan: someone flinging buckets of water onto the ground outside their home or shop. This water helps to cool the air as it evaporates.

The method is so useful that some municipalities give away water, especially for uchimizu. We also suggest using recycled water, such as bath water. You can purchase special pumps from local electricity shops for taking bathwater out of the bath.


Using a higasa (Japanese parasol) has been shown to reduce the surrounding temperature by three degrees Celsius. Not only is the higasa incredibly stylish (or technology advanced, depending on which style you pick), it’s very effective.

Hand Towels

These towels — whether they be tenugui or handkerchiefs — are invaluable for wiping sweat off your brow, your back or your various crevices. Don’t leave the house without one.

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