One thing about expats in Tokyo is that we are from all areas and climates of the world. I come from a wet, wet rain forest of a city while a buddy of mine comes from the always sunny, blue skies California. We didn’t grow up in Tokyo so unlike the native inhabitants of this fair city, who can navigate the frigid winters and horribly hot summers, expats don’t know how to survive in these conditions and most leave for other ports of call. Those of us who choose to stay or are stuck here endure the Tokyo summer but there are some tricks to surviving this heat.
First of all let’s talk about the heat. Right after the rainy season ends in June summer starts with a bang, with temps that usually hoover around 35°C (95°F) but it’s not the heat that kills you here, it’s the humidity. Walking around in this oppressive summer weather is like walking through the steam of a hot shower. Step foot outside and within minutes your shirt will be drenched in sweat. So to survive follow these tricks of the trade…
This is totally necessary as heat stroke and heat exhaustion are real threats in Tokyo especially for the uninitiated expat. You can go without pissing in Tokyo for days just because all liquid leaves your body through your pores. When I went to Burning Man, they had a newspaper, called “piss clear”. It’s a small publication that tells you about the events going on at the event but their mantra was “drink enough water till you piss clear” if it’s yellow you aren’t drinking enough water. Same applies to Tokyo, Drink More Water!
Deodorants and Cooling sprays
Contrary to popular opinion Japanese stores do sell Deodorants. Sure if you go on a train in Japan you’re guaranteed to go face to face with some salary man BO but in these sweaty, hot conditions there is no way to avoid it, no matter how much deodorant you slather on. There was a great post on Quora that talks about deodorant in Japan:
You can buy deodorant in Japan. It’s called デオドラント (deodoranto). In terms of personal care items though, it’s a second-tier product, by which I mean it’s not ubiquitous like soap or something, so not all stores may stock it, or they may only stock a couple of brands, depending on where you are. If you’re looking for specific American brands you may have to go to specific stores, or buy them by mailorder. Amazon and Rakuten both stock deodorants in abundance. See デオドラント・制汗剤 – パーソナルケア: ヘルス&ビューティー for the Amazon search page result for デオドラント. Here’s the search result page for “American deodorant” on Rakuten: 【楽天市場】アメリカ製 デオドラント の検索結果 – (標準順 ウィンドウショッピング)：通販・インターネットショッピング
Deodorants as a product category have never really caught on in a huge way in Japan, probably for a couple of reasons. First, there’s a perception that it’s meant to cover up the odor rather than eliminate it, which goes rather against the idea that odor and dirt should be washed off frequently….
Another reason is, as far as anti-perspirants go, when faced with the typical sweltering summer that is experienced in most of Japan, chemical ones are pretty useless.
So instead of Deodorants a lot of time you’ll see people with cooling wipes. They look like wet naps and you’ll see people wipe the sweat away from underarms, upperbody, etc. The wipes also has an ingredient that will chemically cool you down. These are great for when have a chance to sit down or if you arrive at your destination which brings us to…
Have a Spare Shirt
Always carry a spare shirt. One is to get you to work and the other to wear at work. Nothing is worse that arriving to your office drenched in sweat only to have to sit in an AC room and you look like you’ve just stepped out of a wet T-shirt contest. Bring a spare shirt!
Get a towel
This is probably the most important of all, get a towel! Douglas Adams must have lived in Tokyo. When you watch movies of the deep American south you always see people dabbing their heads with a handkerchief, well Tokyo is just like the hot and humid south, except instead of a little itty bitty handkerchief that will get soaked in seconds you need a full on hand towel to carry with you, where ever you go.
There are high brand versions with cooling gel inside but all you really need is a large hand towel. Everyone who is relaxing in Tokyo will carry a nice sized white towel. Sometimes they will be simply hanging on the shoulders or tucked underneath their shirt giving the impression of a hunchback. Others, in some sort of towel origami, will construct towel hats to block that summer heat but most importantly carry a towel!
For other “How to … in Japan” guides, try these:
|How to become big in Japan||How to cycle in Japan||Getting the around the Japanese health care system||Making Friends in Japan||How not to be a hostess|
I absolutely always carry an extra t-shirt, but the thing that kills me is how short of a life they seem to have here. I do laundry daily to wash my sweat-soaked shirts but they seem to become musty in no time flat. And as far as deodorant goes, the local brand 8×4 seems to be working great for me. I’ve always seemed to develop an immunity to any deodorant after a month or two, but this stuff is great in that it’s a spray and doesn’t gross-up your shirts with all that sliminess that goes on in the heat. And speaking of all that, I think it’s about time I headed outside to brave the swamps of a nice, hot Tokyo morning.
Interesting. Thanks for the advice. Hopefully I get to use it someday. Recently I have heard about Kofu-shi (Des Moines sister city) in Yamanashi-ken (Iowa’s sister state). Apparently if you have a bachelor’s degree in just about anything, then you can get a job there teaching English. Its supposed to be near Nagano or Shizuoka or something. Not far from Fuji from what I hear.
To bad I am one degree below that. Plus my best hope for a job just fell through and I needed it to pay off my old college and get my transcripts and diploma out of their clutches, followed by going to a better college and getting a better degree. Oh well… shouganai, I must continue my job search.
My lady friend, who’s from Nara, adds that she feels there’s a perception that deodorant is feminine. It’s likened to perfume, so Japanese guys, especially older guys, resist it on principle.
When I wanted to buy deodorant in Japan in a random supermarket in suburbian Tokyo, they didn’t really get the idea and tried to sell me some kind of powder even though I asked for デオドラント in Japanese. I didn’t really want to buy that stuff and luckily I found some deodorant in what seemed to be drugstore.
I’ve been to Japan a few times and I lived there for three months two years ago, but that was in winter and early spring, so I just know the Tokyo summer from what I’ve read online and it seems to be horrible. I’m from southern Germany, so I really don’t know much about unbearbly humid and hot weather. Well, I’ve been to places like Hong Kong, Taiwan or Malaysia in August and it’s hard to believe that Tokyo can be worse than that, but maybe it’s like you said and it feels worse just because Japan pretends to be oh so civilized.
I actually might move to Japan next year, so I’m already mentally preparing myself for the heat by reading your posts. As I’m not an English native speaker, it’s not that every other Eikaiwa is throwing jobs at me, but I’ll try the German school in Yokohama and I guess my chances aren’t too bad. The alternative would bumming around on a Working Holiday visa. I’ll just wait and see what happens.
By the way, your blog is awesome. I’ve been reading it for two years and every post is a good read, even when they’re not related to my interests at first sight.
I grew up in the sub-tropical American Southeast. Live in Atlanta now. All the methods you mention are common place here. Carry a nice, soft, cotton short towel draped over your shoulder unless you are a business man, then you keep it in your car. Short haircuts help a lot. Don’t buy aerosol cans of anti perspirant. Main ingredient is Alluminum. There is some talk of exposure to aluminum causing Alzheimers Disease. Use a roll on. I always kept an entire change of clothes at work, just in case. The key is to treat summer as winter, just don’t get outside the a/c! While it is probably a useless hint in Tokyo, in the mountains of East Tennessee, there was always a blue hole you could dive in and cool off. We kept bars of soap at the blue holes in case we really did stink. Just a few short years to go and I will be buying another fifth wheel camper, and my wife and I will be following the weather around the country. Northern Maine and Maritime Canada in summer, and Louisiana in Winter. Florida has become to expensive to even camp there, so we have some spots staked out in Southern Louisiana. My ideal year round spot for good weather is Mill Valley, CA. Near San Francisco. Where else can you grow an apple and an orange tree side by side? But I’m not a millionaire, so that kinda knocks Mill Valley out. I look forward to your blog as if it was Christmas Morning! Keep them coming!
Also, I have found the “Mitchum” brand of anti-perspirant to be most effective and longest lasting. If that doesn’t work for you, in America, you can go to most small pharmacies and the druggist will special make you an anti-perspirant that will stop anything! Expensive though.
One of the reasons I love this site is because of survival guides like this. Giving me little glimpses into what life is like over in japan without all the gloss that it gets on TV.
Unfortunately, as time goes by, I see less and less of my beloved Japan. I barely see it at all lately. Other than YouTube and a few DVDs I own, I don’t see Japan at all. It has not been on the television in my area at all for a while now. I crave even the glossed over image of that place.
I love its culture, its society, its language, and the greatest woman I have ever met (only through email & letters in the regular postal mail sadly) lives in Hokkaido.
Don’t get me wrong. This blog and its survival guides give me a more realistic portrayal of the place. That makes it feel all the more like being there.
This may seem unrelated but as a person looking to become a resident of this or any city in japan have you got any tips for a guy with no degree and a single heavy epuipment operators license on how to get a job there
Your best bet is the working holiday visa which is open to people under a certain age from a few select countries.
If you have any Japanese relatives you can get them to sponsor you.
OR you can get a TOEFL, TOEIC Certification and you might, if you’re lucky get a teaching VISA.
I thought U.S citazens of the U.S. Didint have the working holiday option also thanks for the certifaction advice
If you can get a job using the license you have here….if you are serious, and yes, it’s a gamble, just come on a 3 month tourist visa and bust your ass trying to find someone who will sponsor you. It can happen.
Will do thanks for the advice
They don’t, that’s why I said a few select countries. I think the list is:
The Republic of Korea
The United Kingdom