Beyond Air Conditioners: A Pro’s Guide to Keeping Cool this Summer

On August 15, 2018

Photo by Becca Takano

With the latest hot and sweaty summer in Japan at its tarmac-melting peak, it’s important to seriously consider how to stay cool while at home. Sure, blasting the air conditioner is a valid and simple option, but it shouldn’t be the only one as there are other possibilities that are worth considering.

As the change from tolerable to baking hot tends to be quite gradual, sneaking up on us like a baking hot ninja, most people will want to invest in an electric fan for those hot, but not too hot weeks. The most common word for these cooling contraptions is 扇風機せんぷうき.

While 扇風機 is the more common word, recently the English-origin word ファン is becoming more common, such as the word タワーファン that describes the long, cylindrical vertical fans and コンパクトタイプファン for the more compressed ones. Of course, these should also not be confused with the traditional small, handheld cloth folding fans. These iconic (and useful) Japanese props are known as 扇子せんす.

Within the electric fan grouping there are a number of options for increased functionality. The most basic function that most people want is the リモコンき(remote control) type and those with a タイマ (shutoff timer) for leaving your fan running when falling asleep.

If you do decide to fall asleep with the fan on, you may discover that your Japanese friends worry about your health. This is because a surprisingly large number of Japanese people believe that leaving a fan running while you sleep increases the risk of 低体温症ていたいおんしょうによる死亡しぼう (fan death syndrome) or hypothermia.

For those worried about being brutally murdered by their fans in their sleep, like at the end of some particularly uninspired horror movie, there are はねなし fans that have no propeller-like rotating blades and should save you from those chopped, unbreathable oxygen particles (no joke: this is genuinely one of the explanations for this totally not-made-up phenomenon!).

Then, of course, there are the other options including 遮光しゃこうシェード (metal sheets that you put up in the window to keep the heat out), シェード or 遮光カーテン (blackout curtains), ブラインド (blinds), 冷却枕れいきゃくまくら (cooling pillows) and 冷却れいきゃく スプレー (cooling sprays) that are also available in 冷却ローション (lotion-form).

… most people will find that fans and other cooling products simply aren’t strong enough compared to the icy blast of an air conditioner.

While fan technology continues to improve year by year, most people will find that fans and other cooling products simply aren’t strong enough compared to the icy blast of an air conditioner. Luckily, for those that want to buy an air conditioner the language is simple as most stores use the quasi-English terms エアコン or occasionally クーラー for these machines.

エアコン will generally be further subdivided by the size of the rooms they can realistically leave in a state of cool perfection. As this is Japan, the room size is typically written according to the number of たたみ(tatami mats) that could be fit in the room. Most visitors will need either the 6畳用じょうよう (six-tatami room) or 8畳用 (eight-tatami room) types, but for people with sizable apartments there are some that go up to 20畳用 and more.

One key difference between air conditioners and fans is that the air conditioner will need 設置工事せっちこうじ (installation work) and an 工事 (installation fee) will likely be charged. Luckily, a lot of air conditioner salespeople will offer this service as part of the package. Haggle hard and you may even be able to negotiate 送料無料そうりょうむりょう (free delivery) into a cool bargain.

For short-term stayers who want to avoid these expenses, a compromise can be a ウインドエアコン or 窓用まどようエアコン. These save on installation costs as they can simply be placed into a window to provide just enough cooling to get to sleep, then removed during the day, something that even DIY-phobes like myself can manage.

Other options that may be considered depending on your need include スポットクーラー (spot coolers), プラズマクラスター (plasma cluster coolers) and 冷風扇れいふうせん (portable coolers).

Whatever option you choose, having something prepared will make the summers here infinitely more bearable. So with an ice-cold drink in hand (another good way to beat the heat!): here’s to waking up cool and refreshed rather than in a puddle of your own sweat.

If you have decided to buy a brand spanking new air conditioner and you’re wondering what all those fancy buttons do — lucky for you, GaijinPot’s Lynda Deaver has you covered with a “how to” guide to master those buttons and use that miracle machine!


Grooving to Japan's rhythm.

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