How to Cool Off in Summer: A Kansai Summer Survival Guide

This is an article published out of Nara by a JET trying to beat the very same heat that lies over all of Kansai. He’s given us permission to reprint his article in the hopes that his tips can help you too!

For some of you, the coming of winter brings gloomy thoughts and a total lack of motivation.  For others, it’s the hot and humid summers that do the trick.  Because Nara is surrounded by mountains, its summers are especially 蒸し暑い (mushi atsui, which means hot and humid), giving many the feeling that we are living inside of a giant rice-cooker.  Being from Winnipeg or Winterpeg, a Canadian city known for its bitterly cold winters, the Kansai summer took its toll on my physical and mental health.  As an 汗かきの人(ase kaki no hito, or sweaty person)I was quite unhappy, spent most of the summer drenched from head to toe and ended up losing 8 kilograms in my first summer in Nara 2 years ago, despite drinking up to 5 liters of water every day.  At the Nara Orientation, I was even mocked for naively asking my CIR this question: “Is there some type of exercise I can do or some kind of food I can eat to better deal with this hot and humid weather?

Actually, there are things you can eat / do!  Some of these may seem like no-brainers to you, but here are a few simple and inexpensive tricks that may help you to beat the heat:

Dress (or undress) for the heat

-Take it off!  If you`re in a situation where you can go without clothes, do it!  There`s nothing wrong with walking around your apartment in your underwear/naked.

-Get natural. If you do have to wear something, wear natural fabrics such as cotton, silk and linen rather than polyester, rayon or other artificial fibers (except for performance fabrics)

-Wear light colors.  Darker colors will absorb the sun`s rays and heat.

-Women can wear flowing dresses or skirts.  Try to avoid nylons or pantyhose if possible.

-Men should take advantage of the “eco business“ style in Japan (no suits or ties from June).  Wearing a tie keeps the heat near the skin and prevents air-circulation.  Take it off!  But make sure to check with your school’s rules first.

Use water

-Drink a lot of water, even if you’re not thirsty.  If you sweat a lot, make sure to replenish the salt and electrolytes you’ve lost.  Sport drinks like Gatorade, Pocari Sweat and Aquarius are good for this.

-Avoid sugary or caffeinated drinks.  They do re-hydrate, but far less than water does.  Caffeine also increases the heart rate, which will make you warmer.

-Avoid ice-cold beverages.  Cold liquids require more energy to be absorbed into your body.  Cool water will cool you down faster.

-Alcohol will dehydrate your body.  If you do go out for drinks especially in the summer, make sure to drink plenty of water during and after partying.

-Get wet.  During the day, splashing cool water (avoid ice-cold water) on your wrists, neck face, ears and feet.  Repeat every hour.  (I doubt you would take off your socks at work to splash your feet, though)  Cool water on your pulse points will noticeably bring down your body temperature.  This is probably the trick that helped me out the most last summer.

-Take a cool shower or bath before going to bed.  The effect will last up to one hour, and  hopefully you`ll already be asleep by then.

-Ice blankets and pillows apparently do wonders to help you sleep on hot nights.

Eat smart

-Try eating 4-5 smaller meals a day instead of 3 regular ones to keep you temperature down.

-High-protein and high fat foods will increase your metabolic heat and make you feel lethargic, so take it easy on the meat and bring some veggies to the next BBQ too.

-If you sweat a lot, you’ll need to replenish your salt.  Energy drinks have salt in them and get absorbed quickly into the system.

-Eat food that is cool and doesn’t require heat to be prepared (sandwiches, salads). Using your oven or stove on a hot humid day can literally turn your apartment into a sauna.

-Eat spicy food, which increases perspiration to cool the body.  Spicy food will also give you a pleasant endorphin rush which might make you forget about the heat.

-Eat many fresh fruit and vegetables and somen (thin cold Japanese noodles) Eating those have given me lots more energy in the summer.

Ventilation and more

-Use your electric fan in your apartment instead of the AC.  Keep the fan blades clean from dust.  A dusty fan blowing in your face can cause sinus colds.  Also, being in the draft of a fan for too long can cause severe dehydration, so don`t blast the fan on full power towards your bed during the night.  The skin cools when water evaporates from it, so  once there is no more water or sweat on it to evaporate, it will begin to dry.  It`s okay to use the fan on you, just as long as you are wet.

-During the day while at work, close your curtains and blinds to keep the sun rays and heat outside.  At night, open the windows.

-When you’re on the go, use your uchiwa hand fan.  I read that if you use it for too long, you will bring up your body temperature, I personally believe this is not true.

-If you have a hatch to the loft or attic, leave it open at night to let the warm air out.

-If it`s worth it, keep your windows open at night instead of using the AC or fan.

-Keep your bedroom door open for air circulation (only if you`re not using the AC)

-Sleeping on your side or in a spread-eagle position will keep your body cooler.

Many of those tricks have worked for me and improved my life in Japan since last summer.  I still dread the upcoming summer heat, however, but much less than I did 4 summers ago.  If like me your Achilles` heel is the “mushi atsui“ Kansai summer, then try as many of those techniques as you can.  Stay breezy, keep it cool and enjoy the summer!

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