Ask anyone who has lived for practically any amount of time in Japan his or her thoughts about the country, and chances are you’ll get an earful about the summertime heat. It’s impossible not to notice. The heat is everywhere; it even sticks to your body! That’s the trademark of Japan’s humidity, which makes the summertime temperatures next to unbearable.
I know all about heat. I used to live in the California desert, near Palm Springs. It gets very hot out there in the summer. But that heat’s dry, so it takes an extremely high temperature for it to make a person uncomfortable. But those temperatures do come, and they last all summer. Here in Japan, however, the temperatures aren’t nearly as high as those of Palm Springs or other deserts, yet the heat is just as miserable.
The difference is the humidity, and everybody in Japan at this time of year knows it, feels it, and lives it. Ever experience the joy of using the trains during rush hour, and coming out dripping in someone else’s sweat? If so, pat yourself on the back! You’re about as close as you’ll ever come to being a real Japanese!
When I was working as an ALT in Gifu Prefecture the first year I moved to Japan, I knew the summers would be hot, but I just didn’t know how hot. I don’t think my fellow American teachers knew, either. One of them was so overwhelmed by the heat that she fainted in the middle of class! That was a wake-up call for all of us to take better care of ourselves during the summer. Thankfully, I haven’t had any close calls like that, but I’m always mindful to drink enough liquids and try to stay healthy. While we can joke about it, the heat in Japan really is no laughing matter.
The good news is that Japan has vending machines on pretty much every street corner, train station, you name it, so mineral water will always be close at hand. I find that Aquarius and Pocari Sweat (yeah, yeah, I’ve heard the jokes a million times, and so have you, so let’s not go there) do the drink and can keep you hydrated.
So be careful this summer, but let’s also have fun. Japan still blossoms, even in the sweltering heat.