If you plan on traveling to Japan during summer think again or head for Hokaido where it’s cool!
The Japanese summertime is brutal. It’s hotter than an oven, and humid as a rain forest. You start sweating before you even get out of the shower. Everyone on the train looks more tired and grumpy than usual. There’s no escaping it!
Your first summer in Japan is the worst. Everybody laughs when they tell you, “It gets pretty hot,” but you can never be totally ready for it. This is probably the reason so many English teachers put in transfers for Hokkaido!
Believe it or not, there are some things you can do to make it more bearable, at least a little more anyway.
– The hand towel. Have you ever heard that a hand towel makes a great moving gift? Did you think, who would want a hand towel? Well, the answer is everybody in Japan. Hand towels are the number one way to get through the summer, and I recommend stocking up.
You’ll see everybody on the train mopping their faces and necks with little hand towels. Surprisingly, this works pretty well. At least, until the next round of sweat starts pouring out of you. It at least reduces some of the discomfort of having giant drops of sweat rolling down your face.
– Don’t move. I recommend moving as little as possible. Walk slowly, give yourself enough time so you don’t have to run for the train. Keep in mind that even a minimum of movement can give your sweat glands the okay to start pouring.
I’m surprised every time it happens. I have to get the station, so I put a little extra speed into my walk. Before I know it, there is sweat pouring off me. Ten minutes after I get onto the air conditioned train, I’m still soaked.
– Change a lot. I go through an average of two shirts a day in Japan in the summer. All that heat and sweat makes you feel like you’re covered in a layer of slime, and changing your shirt is the next best thing to taking a mid-day shower, although I do those too. If I go to Tokyo or somewhere for the day, I usually take an extra shirt in my bag!
Now, I know that some teachers who have to work for big companies (which shall remain nameless) are required to wear a suit. My heart goes out to them. My only advice there would be to go short-sleeved and leave the suit jacket at home.
– Stock up on deodorant. Buy a box of deodorant when you’re back home, because you won’t find the brands you like here. I don’t know why this is, but I’ve heard that Japanese people use their own brands of deodorant, and they don’t work for foreigners. Every time I visit home, I buy at least a year’s worth of deodorant.
– Stay in the AC! I know, it’s probably impossible, and that’s too bad. Amazingly, most public schools in Japan have no air conditioning, so the kids spend the summer months sticking to their seats. Most stores have the AC blasting from about May to September, so you can always kill time inside somewhere.
For those who have never been here during summer, there’s just no way to describe it. It’s like you have to swim along the sidewalk. The first couple of days it’s rough, but after a while you get used to it. I promise.