13 September 2012

How to Stay Cool in the Japanese Summer -- (You guys I figured it out!)

Okay, I didn't figure it out 100%, but I'm getting closer. Let's back up a bit, shall we?

First: Mushi Mushi (蒸し蒸し). That's how you say 'humid' in Japanese.  It seems to roll off the tongue and perfectly capture the hot, sticky mess that is Nagoya in the summer.  Mushi-atsui so desu ne (むしあついそですね). Hot and humid, isn't it?

(I haven't quite nailed the translation for 'Bloody hell, it's hot as balls out here' but I'm working on it.)

I'm so ready for the transition to fall, and while there may be hints here and there -- cooler nights, cloudy mornings -- it seems the summer weather is hanging on for a bit. Hello, 34C. Hi, 90% humidity. No, I'm not sick of you yet. Please excuse the bead of sweat, dripping down my thigh.

On the upside, the cicadas are gone. I don't mean to celebrate death or anything, but YAY. The surround-sound racket that enveloped me when I walked outside my apartment has subsided. I no longer have fleeting visions of Biblical locust plagues when I walk through our local park. For this, I say Hallelujah.

Ug, I'm sorry. I certainly didn't mean to be posting a photo of a dead bug of my blog. Instead, I really wanted to post a photo of this (and please excuse the blurry hand. How not professional am I?):

I have spent the last several months wondering how on earth the Japanese population, on a overly-generalized whole, looks so pulled together during the hot summers. I would see businessmen in crisp, white shirts, sans tie and jacket but remarkably well dressed. I would see young mothers in shorts with leggings underneath, arms covered from the sun with light cardigan sweaters. I'd nearly collide with older ladies biking in fully jeans and dark sun-visors pulled over their face (and it was almost always my fault for being distracted by them. They, somehow, can still see everything perfectly). People seemed ubiquitously armed with a hat, umbrella, and sweat towel. Linens were unwrinkled, foreheads dripless, and no one seemed to have mysterious stomach or back sweat.

No one, that is, except me. My little Irish ancestry was not happy with this whole situation. Face ruddy, forehead damp, hair frizzy, and sweat FUCKING everywhere. It was pretty gross, you guys.

I tried my best. I layered tank-tops under flowing shirts to try and stay more presentable. I carried a handkerchief. An umbrella. A fan. Wore silk pants. I  still can't count the number of times I had to head home to change after I had sweated through the torso of my (loose fitting, dark colored, highly breathable) shirt.

When my sister was visiting this August, I fully realized how inept my heat-strategy was. We were sightseeing around Kyoto, and while I had gotten better at being in Japan, I hadn't nailed this whole hot weather business. Obviously. I about died. (We pulled through thanks to frequent stops for kakigōri and Sapporo.)

Dying of heat. In a World Heritage Zen Garden.

Then. THEN. Back in Nagoya, I had to run to the drugstore. And I found it.

The cool section.

Woah. There is a business for this keeping cool routine. Special scarfs. Blotting paper. Pads for underarms. Portable fans. Special ice-cold sprays. Special ice packs for sleeping upon. Heat whisking leggings and undershirts. Inserts to keep your shirt collar stiff and sharp. Mad genius, yo.

Of course, when I can almost taste the apples and pumpkins figs and persimmons, I finally figured it out. Whatever. I'm celebrating the little victories here.

When you add these amazing inventions to tried-and-true hot weather experience, the cool biz programs in place by the government, and the understandable yet revolutionary aversion to the sun, you have an (overly generalized) population that makes summers stylish. This is all the more impressive when you think about the energy savings going on in Japan since March 11. All business' air cons are set to 28C (about 82F), summer breaks have been extended, and business dress codes have been adjusted. All in the name of patriotic energy conservation. It's worked too, for the most partenergy use is down 15% in Tokyo alone.

Amos and I laughed as we browsed the drugstore for all the things that we didn't know about, all the things that would have been so handy if only we had known they existed. If we do end up spending another summer here (my thighs are sweating at the prospect), we'd be so much better prepared. We'd actually own shorts, linen shirts and light dress pants before things got miserable. We'd have the special underwear. The "keep cool" neckties shaped like polar bears. We'd rock that shiz and rise to the occasion of Nagoya 蒸し蒸し. I mean, I wouldn't be opposed to enjoying the 72-degrees-and-perfect Seattle summer next year, but should we have to, at least we would know where to start.

Though its hard to pass up a penguin shaped ice pack. I could probably find a use for that guy in any climate.

1 comment:

  1. I could've used those ice packs and special undergarments in Malta. I was sticky ALL THE TIME. Congratulations on surviving a Japanese summer. Great post!


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