Throughout the first half of my SJMC Japan trip, I had to suffer through the hot and humid excursions in Tokyo.

It was mentioned in our two orientation meetings by our Academic Program Director Gilbert D. Martinez and alumni that it would be hot, but they never mentioned the availability of Japanese techniques and cooling items to help combat the heat. 

Several of the alumni mentioned that the purchase of a portable fan would be of great use to us. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen and ended up buying one after the first few days in Tokyo.

It was astonishing to see how a large portion of the Tokyo population used portable fans along with the use of umbrellas or parasols. In the United States, the use of umbrellas is most common during the rainy season, but not during the summer months.

Seeing a significant amount of the Tokyo locals using umbrellas and parasols made me recall memories of my mom doing the same thing during the summer. I would always question her why she would use an umbrella if it wasn’t raining, and she would always respond with, “It is hot, and it helps me block the sun from burning me,” to which I would respond, “But it is not raining, and no one else is using one.”

Experiencing the heat, here in Japan and in Texas, I’m not sure why it is not common practice to use an umbrella or parasol in the United States. Both locations have a similar summer temperature, but somehow the use of the umbrellas/parasols feels almost criminal in the United States, as my roommate had once shared with me.

“I feel embarrassed to take an umbrella to school, even if I know it’s going to rain because I see little to no people using them on campus,” Luzmaria Cruz, a 2024 Texas State graduate, said.

Hearing her reasoning opened my eyes as I realized how true her statement was. In Japan, they have stations where one can buy or hang wet umbrellas when it rains. In America, it is surprising if a business has a designated space to store umbrellas.

This culture shock further leads me to the difference in the clothing style here in Japan during the summer months in comparison to America.

To American citizens, the summer months means the opportunity to use crop tops, short shorts and short dresses. In contrast to the United States clothing style, Japanese citizens wear much more conservative clothing. To them, it seems the summer months still consist of jeans, long shirts and layers of clothing, the only difference being the material of the clothes they wear.

In the summer months, the main material of the clothes the Japanese citizens wear is linen!

Although there are people that still wear denim clothing during the sweltering hot summer months, the majority of the people tend to gravitate to light and thin clothing. Whether it be linen or cotton materials, the main style in Japan is layering light thin clothes of said materials.

The combination of using portable fans, umbrellas and parasols, light and thin clothing and cooling pads and gels is what helps keep the Japanese population from their demise through the summer heat.

Japan has a brand of cooling towels named Gatsby, whose purpose is to keep the people fresh and clean throughout the day. The brand is very popular and well known in Japan, and it’s easy to see just how efficiently they work.

In the United States, I have never seen any sort of disposable cooling towels like the Gatsby brand. The most similar items I have seen are disposable baby wipes or some sort of handkerchief made of a cooling material, which in my experience do not give the same result as the Gatsby brand cooling towels.

For the cheap price of 580 Japanese yen (about $3.60 USD), you get a small pack of 36 disposable cooling towels. These towels do not leave a weird residue feeling on your skin like the baby wipes, and definitely do not leave a baby powder smell on your skin.

Finding these disposable cooling towels helped me combat Japan’s summer heat. By no means am I suggesting that they had the same effect a nice cold shower does, but they did provide a much-needed reprieve from the constant sweat coating my face and arms.

After experiencing such revolutionary discoveries in Japan, I can confidently say that I will be taking everything that I learned with me to America. 

I will be stuffing my suitcase with Gatsby disposable cooling towels the moment I go to Don Quijote, a discount store chain in Japan. I will buy more linen clothing and an umbrella when I land in Austin, to ensure that my upcoming Texas summer months are not as treacherous as they have been in the past.

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