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Essential Products for Surviving the Japanese Summer

Feeling like you're melting in the oppressive humidity can only mean one thing—it's summer in Japan.

By 4 min read

The rainy season heralds the start of summer. It’s a period of hot and humid days that can last right through until the end of September, with sweltering temperatures that peak in August. The sweat, humidity and mosquitos can make anyone feel grumpy.

Thankfully, most Japanese houses and apartments are equipped with air conditioners, as are the vast majority of shops and restaurants and, perhaps most mercifully, trains. But of course, you cannot simply cloister yourself away for three months.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of some things that can help you make your summer in Japan a little more bearable.

1. Mosquito Repellents

Keep those suckers at bay!

Mosquitoes (ka in Japanese) are abundant from late spring to early autumn in all open areas, but particularly in places close to water, and tiger mosquitoes (the black and white ones) in particular have a very nasty bite.

To keep them at bay as best you can, you’ll want to pick up some repellent spray. Your local drugstore or hundred yen shop will also have a variety of anti-mosquito products, from scented blocks to hang in your closet to bracelets you can wear and incense coils you can burn. Stock up and don’t take any chances!

2. Powder Sheets

You’re going to sweat. Might as well be prepared.

Available in any konbini, drug store or ¥100 shop, these are basically wet tissues imbued with a deodorant powder. Besides actually using deodorant, they’re a great tool to have on hand to fight stank and humidity. It’s pretty much impossible not to sweat in the height of summer, so these are good for freshening up throughout the day until you can get home and have a cool shower.

3. Dehumidifying Tubs

Don’t fall victim to moldy clothes and sheets.

Mold is a big problem in the summer, with shoe cabinets and closets being the biggest breeding grounds. These plastic tubs are partly filled with absorbent substances that will help to draw some of the moisture out of the air.

Put a couple of these in any enclosed spaces in your apartment, change them once they become full of water, and save yourself the upset of having to throw away possessions that have grown a disgusting layer of gray fur come autumn.

4. Sports Drinks

That’s some high-quality salty H20.

Hydration is important. Carrying around bottled water or a tumbler (also a good way to save money) will keep you from passing out from the heat. If you exercise, your body is also going to be craving salt, which your body loses through sweating. Thankfully, Japan is abundant with salty isotonic sports drinks.

Some of our favorites are Kirin Loves Sports and Pocari Sweat. It’s debatable which is the very best sports drink, but you should definitely let us know what yours is in the comments.

5. Folding Fan

Standing next to someone with one of these on the train is a miracle.

It’s amazing what a light breeze on the face or back of the neck can do on a hot and sticky day—you’ll see many people fanning themselves while commuting or just wandering around the city. Beautiful in its simplicity, a folding fan (or its non-folding, rounded counterpart, the uchiwa) can be obtained easily and cheaply from any ¥100 shop.

6. UV-Protective Parasols

Essential if you sunburn easily.

While the concept may sound a bit strange to some, UV-protective parasols are actually quite a big thing in Japan, especially among women. The umbrella itself comes in a variety of designs that are all made with fabric that helps guard the skin against harmful UV rays, think of it as an added barrier to your sunscreen routine.

Make sure to keep it close whenever you head out on a particularly cloudless day as it not only protects you but it’s also quite the fashion statement. Most department stores sell these at a fairly reasonable price.

7. Cooling Bedsheets

No one wants to wake up sweaty.

If you a fan or your air conditioner is cutting it, avoid tossing and turning in your sleep with bedsheets that help keep you cool all through the night. At certain furniture or lifestyle stores in Japan, you can easily find bedding that was made to stay cool to the touch.

There are other products, both useful and gimmicky, to be found in the seasonal aisles at this time of year: cooling sprays,  gloves and sleeves to keep the sun off your skin and beyond. Throwing together a “summer survival kit” is pretty easy and affordable, and will help you to feel considerably more comfortable.

What are your summer must-haves in Japan? Is there anything we should add to the list? Let us know in the comments!

  • soccerteesandplaydoh says:

    Nice memories! I would love to add the wonderous beverage that is mugicha! Also squid and corn grilled with soy sauce, somen noodles, and the lovely scent of mosquito coils.

  • Becky says:

    Sounds just like the American south. Come to South Georgia, we have cicadas too!

  • frank says:

    Cry me a river. Everywhere I hear about the terrible Japanese summers, and I know why, it’s because so many foreigners here are from the UK and have never lived anywhere else. It’s basically 2 months of hot, humid weather, that’s nothing. Try living in Taiwan, HK, southern China, SE Asia, etc. Winter in Japan is terrible; it’s cold, dry, windy, no insulation, and since most people use public transport you’re exposed to it constantly. I’ll take the “oppressive” heat 12 months a year, thank you.

    • Modern Luddite says:

      Cry a river right back. Winter in Japan is not terrible when you have previously lived in Edmonton Alberta. Try living there for 3 years with temps to -45C in winter and you won’t cry about the “tough” J winters.

    • xxteashixx says:

      No need to be so snarky. I’m from Australia and still find Japanese summers tough to deal with due to the humidity. I have never been a fan of summer regardless of where I am so theres no getting used to Japan’s summer for me.

      No matter where you are from, you will always need to acclimatise when going to a new country so this article is useful for new expats to help them prepare.

    • Stewart Dorward says:

      1) Most English speakers in Japan are from the USA and that is excluding the huge numbers working on the bases. 2) Winters here are lovely – bright sunny warm and have none of the piercing damp on Northern Europe. 3) SE Asia is cooler than Japan in the height of summer. Having said that, summer here is WONDERFUL.

      • frank says:

        The reason I mention British people is because they seem to be the ones always complaining about the summer, a la the writer of this column.Winters are warm here? If youre from N Europe, yes maybe so, but for many Americans, Aussies, and even Brits its cold. The height of summer is about what, one month? I lived in Shanghai and it was hotter longer than central Japan. It may be humid as hell but there does seem to always be a nice breeze, assuming youre not in the concrete jungle of Tokyo.

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