Summer is beginning to roll into central Japan and I gotta tell ya, this is my 22nd summer in Japan, and I still can’t get used to it. I’m originally from Cincinnati, Ohio in the US of A. As a Cincinnatian I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area that had all 4 seasons. I know there are probably going to be people in other areas of the United States that will take offense to what I say and say that they have 4 seasons too. Let’s take Florida for example. The seasons in Florida look something like this, Kill Me, I’m Gonna Die, You Gotta Be Kidding Me, and Jesus Christ!!. My mom lives in Clearwater, Florida. I’ll be talking to her sometimes in mid-winter and she’ll be telling me how cold it is……then she reports that it’s only in the lower 70’s. It takes everything I have to not hang up on her. Up in Cincinnati we actually go through 4 full seasons. It can get blistering hot in the summer, freezing cold in the winter, and spring/falls that make you glad that you’re alive. The one downside to living in Cincinnati is that you can experience all 4 seasons in a day. My wife and I went to my hometown one time and we arrived a few days before Halloween. The day we arrived it was perfect fall weather. Perfect for a long sleeve t-shirt or a very light jacket. We went to bed that night and when we woke up the next morning it was snowing and there was a wind chill of -20. Stupid me, I forgot about how temperamental the weather can be that time of year and we neglected to pack coats. Needless to say we were in the mall at opening time suiting up for the winter.
I first came to Japan for a vacation in August of 1990. It was hot when we left Cincinnati. We stopped over in Seattle for a few days and got the relief that the pacific northwest can bring. When we arrived at Narita I was so excited to get out of the airport and officially into Japan. We got our bags, breezed through customs, then headed outside to catch a bus into Tokyo. The Narita Express train was still about a year away from being born so we had to bus it. I glided through the concourse headed for the door. When the door slid open I was greeted with the most humid, stifling, stagnant, non-moving air that I had ever experienced. It was like walking into a brick wall. You step out and it literally hits you right in the face and makes you stop for a moment to give your brain a second to reconnect with the rest of your body and realize what is happening. Mix in the pollution stank from the cars and buses hanging in the air like a rancid bison carcass, and you’ve got something to write home about.
My destination in Japan was Shizuoka. I had been told so many times how mild the weather is in Shizuoka. “It doesn’t get as hot, or as cold, as other places in Japan.” I’d love to get into how the Shizuoka people say “it doesn’t get cold here” and then how I spend the entire winter frozen like a popsicle…..a “MULLYsicle” if you will, but that is for another day. Today we’re talking about summer. So I get to my destination and stayed there for about a month. To be totally honest, I didn’t notice much difference in the heat and humidity here in Shizuoka than I did when I was in Narita. There were times when I was sitting in the house where I was staying, with the doors and windows wide open, and without moving a muscle, I was sweating like a dyslexic at a countdown.
I’m a fat guy so hot weather is my mortal enemy. I don’t know why I decided to come back here to live, but I do remember that I decided while I was still here on that first trip. I even remember sitting there, with sweat trickling down from under my moobs, saying “this is where I want to be.” So, I went home, sold everything, and 6 months later I was back here…….for good. Like I said above, it’s been 22 years already and I have no plans on ever going back there to live. The summers here are miserable, but I can deal with it.
Now, what advice can I give you? Well, first, if you’re planning on a trip to Japan, I would highly recommend NOT coming anytime between June and October, unless you enjoy the torture. Oddly enough there are people that enjoy the heat. God only knows why, but they’re out there. To be totally serious/honest for a second. July and August are awesome in Japan. The heat is almost unbearable, but the festivals and the fireworks displays are second to none. Regardless of the heat, Japan has some really cool stuff to do in the summer. Ok, back to action…
Second, if you do come in the summer, dress lightly. Thin materials, things that breathe, things that will dry easily once you get into an air conditioned room. If you’re the type that tries to save a few bucks by buying really cheap underwear, you know the kind, 15 pair for like 3 bucks, stop it now. Get some quality underwear. Nothing sucks much worse than walking around with your underwear bunching up like a hammock between your legs. I’d also like to add that if you have tattoos on your legs then you need to be prepared to have your ink looked at, and not always in a kind way. You may get some dirty looks. Remember, you are a guest in another culture. A culture that doesn’t readily accept tattoos. I’m not saying it’s definitely going to happen, but you could actually get turned away from places because of the ink. Again, you are a visitor here, not the other way around. If you have a negative experience because of your ink just try your best to let it go and accept it for what it is, a different culture. I have ink and I have accepted the fact that it’s not always going to be welcomed.
Third, stay hydrated. I can’t emphasize that enough. Believe it or not, more than 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. We just don’t drink enough. What are the symptoms? Well, the first one is, obviously, thirst. If you’re feeling thirsty you’re already experiencing the effects. Other symptoms could be dry lips, dry mouth, headaches, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, cramps, and the list goes on. Make sure you’re getting enough liquids, and I’m not talking about hosing down a 12 pack of beer. You need water or some kind of sports drink that will rehydrate you. Here in Japan the 2 most popular sports drinks are called Aquarius and Pocari Sweat. Every once in a while you’ll come across a Gatorade, although Gatorade may be more readily available in the big cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Here in Shizuoka, not carried everywhere. By the way, coffee lovers, your brown nectar is NOT good for dehydration, just the opposite actually. So don’t go running to Starbucks to quench that thirst. The best thing you can do is drink water. Make sure you’re getting at least 2 liters per day. The good thing that I can report to you is that you’re not in Mexico. Water out of the tap in Japan is safe to drink. Of course there are going to be tin foil wearing conspiracy theorists out there that will tell you otherwise, but don’t listen to them. The water here is safe for consumption, and even if you are a little leery of that, every convenient store and drink vending machine has bottled water, and they don’t charge unGodly prices for them.
I guess that’s about it. If you’re planning a trip to Japan I wish you all the best. And if you need me to be your guide, forget it! It’s too hot! I’m staying in where the AC is.
Y’all come back, I’ll leave the light on for ya!