Depending where you live in Japan, you’ve already experienced the heat of summer. Here in Nagoya, we’ve had little rain and the winds still have a hint of coolness in them. But in just a few days or weeks, all of Japan, except Hokkaido, will be hot and muggy. Staying comfortable without relying on the a/c can be challenging. Here are some hints from Oba-chan.
Hakka-oil Sensu and Uchiwa
Sensu and uchiwa are a great way to cool off. These traditional Japanese hand-held fans are available in a variety of patterns. Spray one with a little hakka-oil (peppermint oil) to enjoy a refreshing and cooling breeze. Peppermint oil has been used in Japan since the Edo-period, where it was used its body-temperature cooling effect. You can also put a few drops in your laundry or bath to enjoy a deodorizing and cooling effect.
Have you ever seen the oba-chan in your neighborhood sprinkling water out on the street in the evening? Called uchimizu, this is a great way to cool off the concrete or asphalt near your doors and windows, and to keep dust levels down. Mid-morning and in the evening are the best times to sprinkle the water, otherwise, you’ll generate hot steam.
So, it’s hot and your clothes stick and you feel miserable. Why don’t you try some traditional Japanese summer clothes? Suteteko are capri length underpants made of a light cotton or gauze fabric. These were originally designed for men to wear to keep sweat off kimonos and suits, but they are actually quite comfortable. You’ll often see oji-chan out in the neighborhood wearing his suteteko and a t-shirt. Uniqlo has a whole range of suteteko in cute designs for men, women and children. (Illustration shows the traditional way of wearing suteteko: gauze t-shirt, gauze suteteko, and a tummy warmer)
Can’t sleep at night? Try a Negoza
Negoza are thin mats made out of rush, the same plant used to make tatami. Futon and mattresses tend to collect heat during the day, so place a negoza on your bed to shield the heat. The gentle aroma of the rush plant is said to have a tranquilizing effect, and will help take your mind off the heat and humidity.
A few Showa-era tips on food and drinks
Remove the pit from an umeboshi (pickled plum), smash the flesh into a paste, and put it in a glass bottle or PET bottle filled with water. This umeboshi water has the same elements as a sports-drink, and is a great way to replenish citric acids, minerals, salt and water lost through sweating. It is also effective in preventing heat stroke.
Noodles (Udon, somen)
The Japanese love to eat their noodles in the summer, and there’s a good reason. Flour functions to lower your body temperature. Add some ginger and green onions, and slurp up a bowl of cold noodles when you don’t have much of an appetite.
Pickled watermelon rind
Instead of throwing out those rinds, try pickling them. They are high in potassium, which helps cool down your body and has a diuretic effect.
Beer (yes, beer)
Beer is also called “liquid bread” and contains a good balance of vitamins and minerals making it a great drink to enjoy on a hot night.. Have some edamame with your beer to replenish vitamin B and C levels as well. For those of you who don’t like alcoholic drinks, non-alcoholic beer has the same benefits.
Sarah is a long-time resident born and raised in Japan. She spends her time trying to raise her children, translating and making soy candles on the side. She loves the beach, paddle boarding, mountain lakes and Japanese beer :)