Top 10 ways to beat the heat



Photo by Jalalspages

Originally published Aug. 23, 2009.

Editor’s Note: This Top 10 list debuts a new recurring feature in the Wide Island View. At least once a month, you can count on a new helpful or humorous Top Ten list relating to Japan. If you have an idea for a list or would like to submit your own, please write to the editor at wideislandview (at) gmail (dot) com.

By Joe Meadows

Hiroshima can be a hellishly hot and sweaty place in summer. You know it’s bad when you can feel the sweat trickling down your back just standing there. If you’re looking for relief, here are are my Top Ten ways to beat the heat.

1. Walk in the shade.

This may seem obvious but if you come from the Midwestern United States like I do, then you know that the temperature is controlled by the wind there. In Hiroshima, the sun definitely rules the roost. You’ll notice that the Japanese hide in the shadow of buildings when waiting to cross the street. Heck, I’ve seen them hiding in the shadow of telephone poles.

2. Take a bag, not a pack.

If you can get by without taking a backpack, I highly recommend it. This will help prevent the embarrassment of a huge obnoxious sweat stain on your back due to the lack of air.

3. Keep a change of clothes at work.

I walk about 40 minutes to work each day and in this heat I arrive soaked in sweat. As some long-timers will tell you, there really isn’t any way to avoid this sometimes. That is why I keep a week’s worth of clothes at my school. I arrive in a T-shirt and gym shorts, cool off and then change. Usually you can get the school to give you a locker if you ask for it.

4. Use an umbrella or parasol.

I know it is distinctly unmanly but since I don’t like hats this is about the best way to keep the sun off my delicate lily white skin.

5. Carry a towel.

Just as the Hitchhiker’s guide recommends, carry a towel with you all the time. It can be small, just make sure it is absorbent because you will be sweating a lot. I don’t recommend a handkerchief unless you get the thicker Japanese kind as these just become a sodden mess after a few minutes.

6. Get a fan.

In Japan, you will often find yourself in stuffy, tiny rooms with no fan or air conditioning. For these instances the folding fan is a wonder. The 100 yen shop has a wide selection. Don’t go for the tiny electric hand-helds as they don’t have the power to really move the air.

7. Get another fan.

If, like me, you aren’t in the main teachers’ room, then you probably don’t have air conditioning. In that case, a small electrical fan perched on your desk can do wonders to keep you from sweating all over those tests you are grading.

8. Use ice gel packs.

Called horeizai (the same name as the ice packs you use to keep your food cool in your lunchbox), these come in two forms. The first time is a glove that holds the icy gel against your wrists. (Your wrists have blood vessels close to the surface so cooling there helps cool your blood and then your body, similar to the way an elephant’s ears work. Look it up!) The other type is a sticky pad made to go under your arms on the sides of your torso. These are used by business men that have to wear a suit jacket to stay cool. Both types stay cool for around an hour.

9. Use alcohol sweat wipes.

These are little packets of wipes with alcohol on them. The Japanese call them ‘Wet Tissue’ but they are nice for removing the ‘sticky’ feeling from sweat drying on your body. Since it is alcohol it can sting, but I find it rather refreshing.

10. Get bamboo shades for the windows of your abode.

They are a bit harder to find now, but you can find these all over the place around the end of May or beginning of June. The bamboo shades are usually hung up outside and they do a great job of blocking out the sun but letting the wind come through. Even with the windows closed, they help keep the apartment cooler while you are away at work.

I’ll leave you with one last tip that won’t keep you any cooler, but will help your clothes last longer. In Japan they sell a little absorbent pad that sticks to the armpit of your shirts called asekyuushuu paddo (sweat sucking pad). I often see them at my local Fuji Grand. These can really be helpful for protecting your shirts from getting the dreaded pit stains and make them last a little longer.


  1. Joe, I’m really glad someone else has made the Hitchhiker’s guide connection with the Japanese penchant for towel carrying. Kudos!

  2. Well, I get around to writing an article about beating the heat and the day after we have a wonderfully pleasent day. Maybe I should write an article about being desperately poor…

  3. The Seabreeze line of showergels, deo-water and shampoo and conditioner are packed with menthol or teatree oil (you can also get great Teatree oil products at Body Shop) which are really refreshing to use in the heat and keep you a lot less smelly too. I keep a bottle of the Seabreeze deo-water or a small bottle of straight tea-tree oil in my office or bag to keep around when you need it (it’ll wake you up before classes/presentations or meetings too!)

    Everyone will be wondering what your secret is…

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