1. Drink mugicha barley tea
Mugicha, also known as Japanese roasted barley tea, is a traditional summer drink in Japan. It is a commonly held view among Japanese housewives that barley tea has cooling properties. This, along with the fact barley tea is full of Vitamin B, fiber, and iron, makes mugicha a beloved symbol of summer in Japan. During the hot summer months, many restaurants will serve barley tea instead of water and it is also readily available in vending machines, convenience stores, and grocery shops.
Mugicha provides cool summertime refreshment.
2. Use an ice pillow at night
The concept is simple and surprisingly effective. Keeping your head cool while you sleep has long been associated with an increase in melatonin and most grocery stores in Japan sell several varieties of ice pillows during the summer. These adorable ice pillows come in all shapes and sizes, with animal shaped packs available in smaller sizes for children.
In a pinch, you can also buy an ice pack. They tend to be cheaper than the brand-name ice pillows but also tend to be slightly harder and not as comfortable to sleep on. Nevertheless, either method will work well and keep your body cool.
3. Eat kakigori shaved ice
Kakigori, also known as Japanese shaved ice, comes in two varieties. Festival style kakigori is simple shaved ice with artificial flavors such as lemon, green tea, melon, “Blue Hawaii,” or strawberry poured on top. Most street vendors will use either an electric or hand operated machine that rotates a block of ice over a stationary blade and shaves the ice flurries into the container below.
Green tea flavored kakigori is both sophisticated and cooling.
Another variety of kakigori typically served in restaurants is the green tea flavored kakigori, or uji kintoki, which is topped with sweetened red bean paste, ice cream, condensed milk, or tapioca pearls. These kakigori flakes are much thinner than their festival-style counterparts; they turn a street festival food into a sophisticated, traditional Japanese dessert.
4. Go out during the hottest part of the day
This seems counter-intuitive, but it is by far the best way to beat the heat in Japan. Going shopping, meeting friends for karaoke, or visiting an artsy museum during the hottest part of the day (from about 12 noon to 3pm) splits up the day and gives your body a break from sweating. Even just an hour disruption from the heat and humidity of Japan can be a lifesaver. If you would rather spend the summer outdoors, beer gardens, parks, and botanical gardens typically have ample amounts of shade that allow you to enjoy the atmosphere without the risk of heat stroke.
Temple grounds, parks and gardens often provide ample shade. (Pictured: Jindai-ji Temple, Chofu, Tokyo).
5. Carry around a sun parasol
The Japanese population may be one the biggest spenders per capita on skin care products, much of which are marketed towards reversing the damage of UV radiation. Along with these expensive skin care products, many women in Japan also carry sun umbrellas or parasols. These parasols are lightweight, come in all sorts of chic patterns, and provide an enjoyable amount of shade. Other options include carrying around a small handkerchief to keep sweat off your brow or foldable fan to provide a gentle breeze.
Parasols have long been a favorite way to beat the summer heat in Japan.