Mar 31, 2017

Cool Japan: Literally!

Summer is coming! You can feel it in the air. The cold wind is mixed with long strands of hot air dancing, stroking your face and making you feel oddly violated.

Coats get put in the closet along with wool sweaters, scarves and those gloves that you can use smartphones with. It is a wonderful time of the year, until it´s not.

Now, I come from a fairly cold country. Our summers consist of slightly less outpouring from the sky and maybe the wind takes a small rest. I personally never put my coat in the closet, since you never know when it is going to start raining again. (And don´t get me started on umbrellas).

So it is not surprising that a person, who grew up in a country whose data centers are cooled by opening the window, is not very knowledgeable about anything above 25 degrees Celsius. And when said person moves to a country, like Japan, where (NUMBER OF PEOPLE) die every year from heatstroke, things get interesting.

This may sound like common sense to most people. These are things you learn in the first grade and you do them without thinking about them. To those people I say this: Try digging your car out of the driveway through a meter of snow at 10 in the morning before the sun is up and then drive on slippery ice for two hours because the roads don’t get salted only to find out your classes were cancelled not because of the snow, but because the teacher is sick. And to those who DO know both: Well, aren’t you clever.

So here are a few tips and tricks to keep yourself cool during the summer, courtesy of a few years living in Japan and mostly thanks to a very patient SO.

1. Cake blocks.

You know when you buy cakes in Daimaru or whatever cake shop and they pack it with a bag of frozen gel to keep it fresh? Wrap a few of those bad boys in a towel and put it around your neck for instant cooling comfort.

Cool Japan: Literally! photo

2. Cooling bedding

Get yourself bedding with cooling properties. Pillow covers, blankets and things made out of poly-whatever materials that are cool to the touch. I never used to use them until they were forced on me, and now I cannot live without them.

3. Water spray

When you are in USJ or somewhere where there are a lot of people, sometimes you can find one of these places that spray water in a fine mist over everything. This is surprisingly cooling, especially if you are walking through crowds looking for the shortest way to the Spiderman ride.

I saw one of these in my school once, and after basking in the cooling mist for a while, I realized that it was there to water the plants…

Cool Japan: Literally! photo

4. Avoid the top floor

This one came from my realtor when we were apartment hunting. He informed me that getting an apartment on the top floor would result in hotter summers and colder winters. Something to do with the sunlight hitting the roof and the heat going directly to your apartment. I didn’t listen at the time (when do I ever) and I have no frame of reference, but he was probably right. Top floor was totally worth it though!

5. Keep hydrated. Really hydrated!

This is a big one. Back in the old country, you are never more than a few meters away from a clean water source. Not that you need it that much, since the temperature doesn’t really go over the legal limit.

HOWEVER, in Japan, I have been known to keep two or three water bottles with me AT ALL TIMES. I have been experiencing symptoms of mild dehydration and heatstroke without even knowing about it. Talk about dangerous!

Take my advice. Drink when you can. Not when you are thirsty. If you are thirsty, it is already too late. (**I am not, nor have I ever been a doctor**)

Although the sheer amount of vending macines in Japan provides a certain peace of mind that you can at least get something to drink at any given time. Provided you have 100 yen on you.

6. Fans and circulators vs air conditioners.

My fan runs at a maximum 35W. My air conditioner runs max 2000W. Any questions?

Cool Japan: Literally! photo

7. When freezing water in a bottle ,freeze it only half full and on its side (making sure the ice does not block the mouth of the bottle). Then when it is frozen, put water in so that it fills the bottle up. The water will cool and you will be happy.


The word Gaman in my language actually means “fun”. Although there is nothing fun about being a sweating mess laying on the sofa trying to muster up the energy to change the channel, but every movement provides friction in the air particles which increases the temperature by a few nano-centigrades.

You know the old saying (atsui neeeeeeeeee). What people are doing there is not try to be annoying. They are sharing their suffering. Misery loves company and all that. When you hear people saying that, why not just join in? When you can’t beat them, say “atsui nee” until winter comes.

So in a few months, when you’ll be able to cook an egg on the sidewalk at night, just remember these few tips. I know this information is fairly useless for many of you, but for those few who, like me, are discovering the wheel in more aspects than one in life, I hope this will help.

And if it doesn’t help, try to Gaman.



European living the Japanese dream in Kansai