Beating the Heat, the Japanese Way

Today, it is 95 degrees and humid outside, which is why I’m why I’m sitting inside a coffee shop, one of a very few air-conditioned places in Japan. Being in a climate-controlled setting seems like a logical decision to me, but the rarity of air-conditioning in this country shows the Japanese think differently. Apparently, most of what we consider logic is actually just common sense, and sense that is only common in our own culture. For example- Western logic: It’s hot, so we should turn on the air-conditioner. Japanese logic: We don’t need an air-conditioner because suffering in the heat together boosts group morale.

People-watching through the windows, you would never guess the heat. Everyone is clothed from elbows to knees, and many from wrist to ankles. Covering up in the heat seems logical to Japanese people, whereas my own Western logic drives me to wear tank tops and shorts this time of year. The goal of their layering is to avoid the sun. Wide-brimmed sun hats and baseball caps are also plentiful, and a fair few women are shielding themselves from the sun’s rays with umbrellas. Whereas Americans try their hardest not to sweat in defiance of the heat, Japanese people just assume that sweatiness is a part of summer. Everyone carries small cloths to dab perspiration from their faces and necks with during the day.

Today and similarly sweltering days, I order my lattes iced instead of hot. Last week, it was so hot in our un-climate-controlled staff room that all I could bring myself to do was sit and eat ice cubes in a futile attempt to avoid sweating. My principle, however, sat down next to me with a steaming cup of Japanese tea. When he started complaining about the heat, I glanced at his cup of hot tea, then gave him the “are you crazy/stupid” look. This look is also gifted to the lady teachers who complain about the heat while wearing slacks, panty hose and a cardigan over long sleeves in July. My principle guessed my accusatory thoughts, and said, without a hint of sarcasm, “The best thing for a hot day is a hot drink.”

“Do you know what’s really good during hot weather?” I said. “Air conditioning.”

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One thought on “Beating the Heat, the Japanese Way

  1. Pingback: Odds and Ends 2 | Japanland

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