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Traditional and High-Tech Ways to Keep Cool in Summer

Japan’s summers are hot and humid. Air-conditioning is wonderful, but who wants to stay indoors when there is so much to do and see outside? Luckily, Japan has many products to help you spend your time outdoors more comfortably. Try something traditional or go high-tech. Use this handy guide to help you decide how to keep cool.

BY Lori Ono

Cool in summer Traditional-1
Traditional items to help you keep cool. Clockwise from the left: sensu, uchiwa, tenugui.

Summer in Japan is hot and humid. Temperatures in August can range from lower to upper 30 degrees Celscius (86 degrees fahrenheit). Whether you’re outside watching Olympic and Paralympic events or out and about getting to your event or sightseeing, it’s important to keep cool. Traditional or high-tech, these Japanese items to help you beat the heat and enjoy your trip. This list can help you decide which way you want to keep cool.

FANS

TRADITIONAL

Cool in summer Traditional-1

Traditional items to help you keep cool. Clockwise from the left: sensu, uchiwa, tenugui.

Folding Fan (sensu)

Sensu are made of bamboo or wood and paper or fabric. Since the fold, they are compact and easy to put in your day bag. Many Japanese use these in daily life. Prices depend on quality and craftsmanship and range from 100 yen to over 10,000 yen.

Culture Points:
These fans are considered as an essential item for kimonos. Both men and women use sensu though styles differ.

Fixed Fan (Uchiwa)

Cool in summer Uchiwa

An uchiwa is the perfect yukata accessory. Many come with colorful, summer patterns. Find blank ones to decorate them yourself.

Uchiwa are larger than sensu and have a leaf-like shape. They are made from bamboo or plastic and paper. They move more air than sensu but are harder to put in a day bag. Companies often hand them out with logos or ads as promotional items.

Culture Point:
Many summer festival dances use these fans.

HIGH-TECH

Cool in summer Electric fans

From left to right: USB-powered hand held fan, battery powered mist fan, USB-powered fan for around the neck.

Portable Hand Held Electric Fans

Many of these fans are foldable and compact enough to fit in your bag. They often have a clip or a strap. They use batteries or USB power.

Mist Fan

When it’s really hot, a cool mist sounds heavenly. The mist fan is slightly larger so it can hold water or even a few ice cubes. This personal cooling device is battery powered.

Electric Neck Fan

This device has two small fans on each end of a strap that you wear around your neck. It is powered by battery or USB.

HIGASA/SUN UMBRELLAS (traditional and hi-tech)

Whether you call it sun parasol, sun umbrella or higasa, if you spend a lot of time outside a sun umbrella provides more protection than a hat. Higasa have been a summer staple for women for a long time. Recently, men have been taking advantage of this summer protection. Higasa are made of traditional and modern materials. With the variety of styles and patterns anyone can make a summer fashion statement.

PERSONAL CARE

TRADITIONAL

Tenugui (Thin cloth towel)

This thin, cotton can be used for almost anything. Use them as headbands, dry your hands or face or wrap bottles to keep them cool.

Culture point:
Most fabric designs are based on traditional Japanese motifs. They are a popular gift in Japan and make great souvenirs.

HIGH-TECH

Cool Bandanas & Cool Towels

Visitors may already be familiar with cool towels and cool bandanas made from technical fabrics. Just add water, wring it out, and keep yourself cool.

Cooling Sprays

You can spray your body with liquid that will cool your body by evaporation. Some sprays are for your clothes to help keep you cool.

Cool Body Sheets (Hiya Sheet)

Wipe the sweat away and feel refreshed with these sheets with cooling lotions.

Chemical Ice Pack (Hiyaron)

These ice packs activate when hit and stay cool for hours.

CLOTHING

TRADITIONAL

Yukata (casual summer kimono)

Cool in summer Traditional

Use a higasa to block the sun. You can try a yukata for less than 5000 yen!

Made from cotton or synthetic fabric with decorated with summer motifs. Both men and women wear yukata though the designs are different. You can wear a yukata anytime but most people wear them for festivals, fireworks or special events.

Jinbei

Jinbei is a casual set of summer clothes. The knee-length shorts and front-tied jacket are made from cotton, linen, blend or synthetics to create a cool, quick drying fabric. They can also be worn as pajamas. Some men create a retro style by wearing a straw fedora or trilby with jinbei.

Cool in summer Jinbei

Comfortable and cool jinbei

Culture Points:
Jinbei are mainly worn by men so are made in darker colors. Women and children also wear jinbei.

HIGH-TECH

Cool Clothes, Technical Fabrics

Many sports stores and some fast fashion shops have clothes designed to wick sweat, dry quickly, or block UV rays. These clothes can help keep you comfortable when out in the heat. Check labels and tags for the most accurate information.

Cool in summer UV block

UV blocking scarf and Uniqlo Airism jacket with a USB-powered neck fan

For affordable quick drying and moisture wicking inner-garments, look for Uniqlo’s Airism line.

Lori Ono
Canadian Over 20 years living in various parts of Japan.

I’m a Canadian writer and photographer based in Tokyo. I love helping people enjoy their time in Japan.

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