Summer in Japan has struck again, with all its heat and humidity, but these 7 items can help you get through it!
Japanese summers are infamously hot and humid. Beat the heat with these 7 must-have summer items! They are all easily purchased from Japanese convenience stores and dollar stores.
1. Tenugui Towels
Tenugui towels are made from woven cotton and are usually dyed with traditional Japanese designs. They were created over one thousand years ago, in the Heian era. At the time only nobles would use them, but today anyone can buy one. The towels have many uses. You can keep them in your bag to dry your hands in public bathrooms, use them to foam up soap in the shower, or as a wrapping for gifts and bento. In the summer, they have yet another use. it’s common to get one damp and wear it around your neck, or as a head wrap. Two sides of the towel are usually left unhemmed to make it easier to wring it out after soaking.
2. Blotting Paper
These thin sheets of paper absorb an incredible amount of oil and sweat from your skin. The use of these sheets, called Aburatorigami (あぶらとり紙), dates back to the Edo era when the geisha of Kyoto would use them to blot the sweat from their brows during performances. Blotting paper soaks up the oil from your face, which helps regulate the balance of water and oil on your skin. The skincare benefits of using this paper have caused it to regain popularity in Japan today. This oil-absorbing paper is especially useful if you want to preserve your makeup on a hot day, as it will help keep your face free of shine. If made using the traditional method, the paper sheets should be created from high-quality abaca leaf. They also often come in beautifully designed packages — a reminder of the paper’s traditional origins.
3. Cooling Sheets
The opposite of the blotting sheets, these cooling sheets are soaked in a refreshing liquid with cooling and deodorant properties. If you’re feeling hot and sweaty, just swipe one of these damp sheets across your skin. You can pick them up at most convenience stores and drugstores in summer. Some of the most popular brands are Gatsby and Bioré.
You can pick up all kinds of little electronic fans for cheap at 100 yen stores, or at the multipurpose store Don Quijote. They can be battery, solar, or cell-phone powered. The handheld fans provide a refreshing, portable breeze, plus many come with cute designs, like ears!
However, if you’re planning on wearing a yukata (Japanese summer kimono) this summer, then you’ll need a more traditional fan to go with your outfit. Uchiwa are the old-fashioned way of creating a breeze, but what they lack in efficiency, they make up for in beauty. They are made of delicate painted fabric stretched over bamboo strips. When wearing a yukata, you can keep the fan folded and tucked in your obi (sash) until you get too hot.
Japanese sunscreen is famous worldwide — they’re even imported overseas at exorbitant prices. Fortunately, if you live in Japan, these brands are easily purchased at drugstores all over, and are much cheaper! Four of the most popular types are:
- ANESSA Perfect UV Sunscreen
- Biore UV Aqua Rich Watery Gel
- KOSE SUNCUT Protect UV Spray
- ALLIE Extra UV Gel
6. Insect Repellant
If you plan to head to the great outdoors this summer, you’ll regret it if you don’t bring insect repellant. Any freshwater location, even parks in Tokyo, are rife with mosquitoes who will do anything to devour you, leaving you covered in itchy bumps. From personal experience, I’ve found that Japanese mosquito bites can be worse than those in the US or Europe, leaving larger and itchier bumps. Any drugstore kind is fine, whether it be bracelets or spray, as long as it keeps the pesky mosquitoes and other bugs away. Beware Japanese biting flies too!
7. Japanese Sports Drinks: Salty Lychee and Pocari Sweat
When I first came to Japan, I helped with rice planting on a hot spring day. After bending down for hours in the sun, the farm’s owner brought us big, ice-cold bottles of an unfamiliar drink: Salty Lychee. It was the best thing to drink after hours of sweating. It tasted like lychee juice, with a salty aftertaste similar to that of Gatorade. Since then, no Japanese summer is complete for me without a bottle of this unique drink!
In summer when you sweat it’s easy to get dehydrated, but it’s also easy to lose salt. If your electrolyte balance gets thrown off due to excessive sweating, you can get very sick. Salty Lychee and Pocari Sweat are two of Japan’s most popular brands of sports drinks, which provide both hydration and electrolytes. In summer these drinks are sold at vending machines, convenience stores, and drugstores, so whenever you feel tired after going out for a walk or run, they’re very easy to pick up.