This is part three of a three-part series called Sweatiquette! It’s all about ways to beat the heat during a Japanese summer including some etiquette tips. Thanks for reading!
Oh! Did you miss the first parts? No problem. They are waiting just for you.
Part 1 – Six ways to deal with sweat during a Japanese summer
Part 2 – Arm guards to onsen: 8 more ways to survive Japan’s steamy summer
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With this last post in the three-part Sweatiquette! series, you’ll have twenty-two whole tips on sweating through a Japanese summer with enthusiasm (perhaps), energy (maybe) and dignity (well, probably not but we’ll try).
The Finale: 8 ways to mess with your psyche
Fabulous Carissa over at EverydayAsia has lived in India for years and definitely knows what she’s talking about when it comes to sweat and heat. She left a comment in Part 2 about her favorite cure for the days “when my sweat is sweating”. I loved her hilarious and accurate description so much that I borrowed it for the post title.
Carissa’s cure for coma-inducing heat is a yummy drink. The final tips here are along the same lines of cooling fixes that may seem strange but just might work!
#15 – Kaidan or ghost stories
Hyu doro doro doro…..
What sound does a ghost make where you’re from? While I grew up with the first two, Hitoshi was spooked by the last one.
Japanese ghost stories and their sinister sounds focus on creepiness, invisible specters, and using your imagination to incite fear. Once that fear is in place, the chill sets in.
The day I swapped walking for buses because the mid-July heat in Japan was about to do me in was the day I saw ghosts.
Hitoshi and I showed up at Fukuoka’s city hall for a teeny tiny gold historical artifact in the museum but got sidetracked by promises of spine-tingling images.
The thick curtain at the entrance seemed suffocating given how roasting hot I already was. Pushing past it into the darkness, we rounded a corner and felt a slight coolness. Maybe it was air-conditioning or maybe….
Hyu doro doro doro…..
Turning a second corner into gloom, I could hear shrieks and giggles. Gripping Hitoshi’s hand tightly and quickly breathing in, I saw her. Or was it he?
Rising and floating from the back of a swamp towards me, eyes vacant and longing, hands tucked inside a kimono, long hair knotted and trailing. And the feet. Where were its feet?
The muted grays, blues and blacks of the painting were cool and plain, washed away.
Hyu doro doro doro…..
Look at me. Look into my eyes as I see yours. Feel my pain. My sorrow.
Return and stay with me a while… won’t you?
#16 – Hanabi or fireworks
Fireworks and firecrackers are mandatory in the biggest cities and the tiniest hamlets. They are a major marker of summer and its fun to see viewers dress up in their favorite yukata or light, cotton, summer kimono.
The dazzling lights, spectacular shapes and ear-popping booms really do make you forget the heat.
#17 – Fuurin or tinkly bells
The tinkling of close to 100 bells hanging from the ceiling rang out a charming greeting to visitors arriving at a train station in steamy Western Japan. What a way for Hitoshi and I to begin our summer adventure!
Was I a smidgen cooler? Not really but, like a brilliant fireworks show, me and my sweat enjoyed the experience and forgot about being hot for a while.
These special bells are usually a glass ball or metal cone with a little dangling post. It’s incredible how many ways they can be personalized or themed to suit just about anyone or anywhere.
#18 – Misting pipes
Outside some department stores and train stations, a long pipe attached above the ground has water forced through tiny holes or pipes to make a shower of mist to walk through or stand under.
The inventors are my heroes.
#19 – Uchi-mizu or throwing water on the sidewalk
Tossing buckets of water on the walkway in front of shops and homes is the highlight of a special ceremony in some parts of Japan. In others, it’s a regular summer task related to cleanliness and/or habit.
A large, dark blob of wet road or sidewalk is the usual result and how long it lasts depends on the heat.
Does it work to cool down the neighborhood and bring cheer? I don’t think it matters. It’s a neat approach to battle the hot days of summer.
#20 – Kyuri or cucumbers
Crunching over pebbles past yet another low, wooden samurai house at an outdoor museum, head pounding under the afternoon sun, it was time to find the nearest air-conditioned bus and head home.
Like a good friend persuading otherwise, an old wooden well stood before us and waved, “Come on over and have a long cool drink!”
Throats back to normal and feeling slightly woozy, my eyes swung to the left to another unexpected savior.
Bathing in a little, while styrofoam cooler filled with icy water was a stack of long, skinny, Asian cucumbers. While I knew cucumbers were supposed to help cool you down, I had no idea how effective they were until I really needed them.
If you are a fan of Ghibli movies, watch Tonori no Totoro (My Neighbor Totoro) for the scene by the stream after picking vegetables from the garden.
Cucumbers are often served in the summer chopped and seasoned with katsuo (bonito flakes), shoyu (soy sauce) and a little goma abura (sesame oil). Delish!
#21 – Somen or cold noodles
Hot noodles in broth or separately are eaten anytime of the year but cold noodles are usually reserved for summer.
Why? Whoever is doing the cooking wants to avoid adding heat in the kitchen in the summer and cold noodles only need a quick boil.
Cold noodles are also refreshing and quickly digested so they don’t weigh you down in heat that may already be squashing you.
If you’re lucky, you just might get a pink noodle! This is especially fun for kids.
The other neat feature of cold noodles is how they are eaten. Instead of serving the noodles in soup, the soup and the noodles are separate. You dip the cold noodles into cold broth that sometimes has ice cubes in it for an extra shiver.
And don’t worry about slurping, or not. Happily slurping noodles in Japan is socially acceptable but I never got into this. I couldn’t figure out how (and still don’t 9 years later) to slurp noodles without burning my mouth. As for cold noodles, I make a mess so I stick to my way of munching instead and you can too.
#22 – icy wrists
Having to wear a suit every day for work in Japan was no issue until summer hit. Then it was plain horrible.
Part of the problem was bringing suits from Canada that were not made for a Japanese summer. The other issue was all that layering with a work blouse and an undershirt under that as a good sweat soaker.
Imagine a non-air-conditioned classroom with metal walls – great for magnets, not so for temperature control! One wall is full of windows that look into a dark hallway. The opposite is the same but the massive windows open above a pit filled with hot air exhaust pipes for a building that holds 1,000 workers.
Bundled up in a roasting hot Canadian suit in the middle of a roasting hot Japanese summer teaching inside an inferno-like classroom was enough to make me want to drop to my knees. But I had a trick up my sleeve.
The bathroom had a great supply of ice-cold water from the taps. Whenever I had a break, I would run my wrists under the cold water until I couldn’t stand it one more second. Wasteful? Absolutely. Helpful? Yes. Yes. Yes.
22 ways to enjoy the roast
Semi (cicada) whirring, hot nights at festivals and special summer treats make the steamiest season of the year a favorite. Summer really is special in Japan and now that you’ve got a pile of ways to live with the guaranteed extra warmth and moisture, I hope you get out and enjoy it.
How about you? Is your mind strong enough to conquer the heat or is succumbing more your style?