Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sweating in Japan

Growing up in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, I faced a varied climate. There were some distinct seasons. We of course were faced with damp, slushy and cold winters. Those were followed by muddy and damp springs. After spring was the shortest season of them all, summer. Summer lasted from about the second week of July until the end of August. The temperatures were arm and relatively dry. We would deal with average temperatures of about 25C, comfortable and warm. After that came my favorite season, fall. The air was crisp and the fall colours throughout Cape Breton’s forests were simply breathtaking.

Fast forward many years and I find myself living in the Kansai region of Japan. The climate is far different from what I grew up with and people deal with the elements in a very different way.

How do the seasons here in Kobe compare with those I dealt with while growing up? Well, there isn’t a lot in common!

In Kobe, there are certainly distinct seasons. Winter is mild and very easy to cope with. I like to refer to winters here as “winter lite”! We basically have no snow at all and the temperatures hover around 5C. Winter in Kobe is like mid-fall back home. I like it, but I occasionally miss the “white stuff.” Spring comes along and temperatures skyrocket very quickly. By mid-May, temperatures are I the mid to high 20’s. Then comes a bonus season! Rainy Season.

Rainy Season is basically a month of wet and a whole lot of not fun. As I am writing this post, the rainy season is beginning.

This is a month of having to hang your laundry inside your house (although clothes dryers are standard in Canadian households, they don’t exist in Japan). It is a month of your clothes not drying, getting moldy and not smelling so fresh. This is a season of testing the strength and durability of a variety of umbrellas and hoping someone doesn’t steal your umbrella when you leave it in the umbrella stand outside your office. It is wet!

Rainy season passes and we are immediately thrown into the “Japanese sauna”!

Summer in this area of Japan is brutal. It is hot and very humid. Often, with the humidex, temperatures reach the high 30’s and at times the low 40’s. You sweat from the time you wake up until the time you go to bed. Then you sweat in bed!

Summer in Japan is all about having high power bills in your house because of the air conditioner (even though many Japanese people refuse to use the air conditioners they have) and pointing fans in every direction you can think of.

During my first summer here, I was often self-conscience about the amount I was sweating. I was embarrassed about the fact that the underarms of my shirt were often wet. I was embarrassed about constantly having to wipe the endless waterfall of sweat from my brow. Then I began to look around and noticed that I wasn’t alone. Most of the people around me were sharing the same misery! Most men were also soaking through their shirts and I realized most people carried “sweat towels.” Small towels used to wipe their brows, necks and faces. Both men and women would constantly use these towels. Construction workers normally just tie a white towel around their heads like a bandana to soak up the moisture (I’ve even seen a few dorky foreigners do the same).

Once the sweltering nastiness of summer passes, we have fall in Japan. Fall here is much like mid-summer where I grew up in Canada. It is still pretty warm, but at least the sweating pretty much stops.

Then we’re back to winter and the cycle continues.

Conclusion: Weather here is a lot different than what I grew up with and summer here REALLY sucks!


Anonymous said...

There's something that always amused me about sweating in Japan. The deodorant in Japan is incredibly weak. The reason? Japanese people tell me it's because Japanese sweat has no smell.


Some of the worst smelling people I have ever smelled in my entire life are Japanese businessmen.

Esper Ranger said...

My wife who is originally from the Kansai area hates to visit Japan in the summer. I myself don't mind so much the daytime, though it feels crazy sweating in bed when the sun comes up at 4:30am or so. The cicada cries seem to amplify the heat somehow. Still I'd rather live in Kansai than Kentucky.

Hiko said...

I always tell anyone who will listen not to come to Tokyo between May and September - summer in NZ sounds a lot like Canada, only we get a nice long summer. Winter is rainy and cold - Tokyo only gets nice pleasant warm weather for about 2 weeks each spring and each autumn - and I have heard that summers are worse in Kansai. Climate was apparently a big consideration in the relocation of the capital to Tokyo.

Anonymous said...

Quite glad for the cool summers here on the north island! I actually went to Kansai last August. Stayed with my family in Osaka while day tripping Nara, Kyoto, and Kobe. I thought I was going to die. And this is after having lived six years in the very tropical climate of central Florida. At least in the States, everything (EVERYTHING) has air conditioning. Not the case in Japan, ne. Is a/c prevalent in Canada?

markus said...

Hi there, maybe you are interested in a solution called iontophoresis, this is also suitable for facial sweating and can be treated via a special iontophoresis face mask available under

Unknown said...

Is there a word in Japanese for sweat towel. I know they have a Tenugui (手拭い) which is a thin Japanese hand towel made of cotton, but it is not like the modern terrycloth or microfibre towel.