Japan’s summertime reminds us of people attending summer festivals in yukatas (summer kimono), holding uchiwa fans, enjoying delicious festival foods and spectacular fireworks displays.
On the other hand, summer in Japan is also notoriously hot and humid. Lasting from June to August, it is sweltering to the point where even for us from the tropics would find the heat a little unbearable.
With many exciting activities and joyful events lining up, summer is a season you simply cannot miss when it comes to Japan travel. To have a pleasant summer vacation in Japan, knowing some tricks to beat the heat and stay comfortable is important, and here are 10 tips to do it.
1. Wear breathable clothes
Even in summer, you hardly see Japanese people exposing their skin excessively, and in many cases, the ladies even cover themselves from top to toe to protect their skin from the UV rays. If you wonder how they do this in the hot and humid summer, the secret lies in choosing breathable clothes that allow good airflow. These clothes are thin, light, and being able to whisk away perspiration effectively so that you stay cool and fresh instead of soaking in your own sweat. You can easily find breathable clothing in many shops across Japan during summer, and Uniqlo’s AIRism series is one well-known example of such apparel.
2. Bring an extra layer
While this seems like counter-intuitive, many buildings and places in Japan blast their air conditioners in summer so it can be quite cold inside whereas the outside is extremely muggy. Bringing a light jacket or cardigan anywhere you go would help you cope with the differences in temperature, which is bad for the health. Besides preventing you from getting a sunburn, an extra layer is also useful when visiting places such as temples and shrines where revealing clothes are considered impolite no matter how hot it is.
3. Comfortable walking shoes
As you will be spending much of the time walking, bring a pair of easy walking shoes. Leave the flip-flops for the beach and new shoes at home, because you don’t want the blisters or end up walking in discomfort. Sneakers, flats, and slip-ons are good options, so do sandals – but please note that some places don’t allow sandals so make sure to bring other shoes as well. You may also want to bring a pair or two of socks (clean and no holes!) to wear in places where you need to take off your shoes.
4. Summer survival kit
Putting together your own summer survival kit with several essential items in your bag would help you weather the heat better and make the trip more pleasant. Among the key items include sunscreen (remember to reapply frequently!), sunglasses, cap or hat, plenty of drinking water, and insect repellant, given summer is also the season when mosquitoes are abundant especially in places close to water. Be sure to include also a couple of handkerchiefs to wipe up the sweat, and a sun umbrella or parasol as a portable shade too!
5. Use a hand fan
A hand fan is a very useful summer tool – you can use it to make a light gentle breeze or to shade your face from the glaring sun. It’s light, cheap, and can be obtained easily from 100 yen shops, even though you are also likely to receive it on the street from people handing out freebies at train stations and shopping streets. You will find these freebies, whether it is pocket tissue or hand fan, are pasted with a piece of advertisement – but who cares as long as these goodies can save you a couple hundreds of yen and are useful on hot and humid summer days?
6. Body wipes or “body sheets”
A must-have for summer travel, these are basically wet tissues that come in different varieties – antibacterial, floral scented, powder-imbued, deodourising and so on, good for wiping away sweat and freshening up throughout the day. Available at any convenience stores, 100 yen shops or drug stores, the popular brands for such product include Biore and Gatsby. For more cooling sensation, opt for the “cool” or “ice” type which gives a nice tingling effect after use.
7. Keep hydrated anytime, anywhere
You can count on the ubiquitous vending machines in staying hydrated at all times. Besides drinking plenty of water, Japanese people also swear by the benefits of mugicha or roasted barley tea in helping them to get through the heat. Known as Japan’s summer beverage, the tea contains many nutrients and is caffeine-free. To replenish the water lost through sweating, you can also try Pocari Sweat (a sports drink) and Salty Lychee Drink (a soft drink), which are popular in Japan for their hydrating properties.
8. Beat the heat with summer foods
Summer is the season for many summer dishes that best eaten on a sweltering day. Enjoy zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles with dipping sauce), hiyashi chuka (cold ramen noodles with assorted toppings and sesame dressing), and the nourishing unagi eel which is believed to help your body better cope with the heat. Do consume fruits and vegetables such as cucumber, tomatoes, watermelon, peaches, melon, and cherries, as the high water content can help you stay cool and hydrated.
9. Indulge in ice-cold favourites
The hot weather is all the reason you need to enjoy kakigori, a shaved ice dessert flavoured with syrup and sometimes condensed milk. Cheap, simple and available virtually everywhere, it is the perfect treat to cool down during the hot summer months. Otherwise, the ever popular Japanese soft serve or “soft cream” is available in many delectable (and unique) flavours, one is never enough so experiment as many as you like! Finally, what’s summer without the ice cold beer? Whether it is canned beer or craft beer, alcoholic or non-alcoholic, pick your favourite and have some relief from the heat.
10. Go indoor
You actually get tired fast when travelling in the summer months due to the high humidity. Try to arrange your itinerary so that you go indoor to places like shops, restaurants, shopping malls, museums and even libraries during the hottest hours of the day (around 12 pm to 3 pm). Besides escaping the withering midday sun and the strong UV rays, doing so would also allow you to cool down and rest before continuing your journey.
Summer is a great time to visit Japan and see the country’s culture. With plenty of things that can only be experienced during this period of time, don’t let the stifling weather hinder you from enjoying all the fun! I hope you find the travel tips in this article useful in helping you plan a perfect summer trip to Japan!