If you saw my Uncover Japan facebook post the other day, you’ll know that Japan has ended its rainy season a full two weeks early this year and summer is in full swing. I can certainly attest to that, as I experienced 90 degree (Fahrenheit) temperatures this past weekend on my trip to Okayama Prefecture. As the sun beat down and the sweat began to drip, I took note of the things I had both remembered – and forgotten – to bring on my weekend jaunt. Here are some things you should absolutely carry with you if traveling to Japan in the summertime.
1. A mini towel – As I literally began dripping perspiration onto my notebook pages, I could only curse my forgetfulness as I thought of my darling Kumamon-emblazoned towel sitting back on its shelf in my house. It didn’t help that nearly every Japanese traveler I saw had a towel of their own, using it to mop foreheads and faces and wrap around their neck. Towels are also incredibly useful for those numerous public bathrooms in Japan that have no form of hand-drying equipment whatsoever.
2. A pair of sunglasses – You can find hats galore in Japan but a pair of cheap sunglasses? Forget it. The Japanese are all about sun protection, so hats and scarves and arm sleeves (yes, arm sleeves – I’ll model my own on the blog here sometime soon) are readily found. But sunglasses? I see maybe a half dozen Japanese wearing sunglasses on any given day. Either throw an extra pair in your bag for that occasion when your favorite set breaks or “go local” and sport your own Japanese sun hat.
3. A lot of ¥5 and ¥10 coins – A bit of an odd necessity, you’re thinking … but unless your toting around a reusable bottle every day, you might need to purchase some liquid refreshment from one of Japan’s ubiquitous vending machines. Now, don’t panic – these machines will give change for ¥1000 bills. But soon you’ll have a heavy pocket of change and nothing becomes more of a burden than too many coins. Most water for sale in these vending machines is between ¥105 and ¥120.
4. A flat or folding fan – Have I stressed that Japan is hot yet? Probably. But another thing to keep in mind is that Japan is even hotter than usual. That’s because the country is still practicing setsuden, or energy saving, as nearly all of its nuclear reactors are still lying dormant. That means higher thermostat levels and shorter AC hours. For when your stuck in those buildings without much artificially-produced relief, a fan will at least give you a bit of a breeze. Pick up folding fans at ¥100 stores of flat ones (with advertisements on) from the girls who hand them out on the streets.
5. A few words of Japanese – It’s universal to talk about the weather, it seems. No matter if you’re surviving monsoon season in the subtropics somewhere or moaning about the fog on the moors in the UK, a few words about the weather always seems to bring people together. In Japan, try throwing out this phrases: “Kyo, atsui desu ne?” (It’s hot today, isn’t it?” Guaranteed you’ll elicit at least a sympathetic “Soo desu ne, totemo atsui!” (It really is hot, isn’t it?) if not the start of a conversation with new friends.