Sunday, July 29, 2012

Beating the heat in Tokyo

The other day in Tokyo, it was so oppressively hot that I had a hard time deciding which I liked or disliked more: the fierce winds and rains of Manila or the unbearable heat of Tokyo.

The day I arrived in Tokyo last week from the relatively cool comfort of Hokkaido (up in northern Japan) was just about the hottest day on record so far this year in Japan. Tokyo was literally sweltering and it was a pain just to walk a few meters from the exit of the airport terminal to a waiting vehicle to get to my hotel.

Later on, via Japanese news programs on TV, I learned that on that day alone, over 1200 people had to be brought to the hospital because they were suffering from some form of heat stroke. Most unfortunately, too, a handful of people died as well on that day from the heat. So yes, the heat is serious business in Japan.


If I look at the temperatures themselves, these are not really too bad -- especially if I think about summer in the Philippines where temperatures can near 40 degrees sometime. It was about 33 degrees in Tokyo and 34 degrees in places like Gunma Prefecture throughout the latter part of last week.

But something in the weather in Japan -- the humidity, I suppose -- really makes it unbearably hot. You're standing in the shade doing nothing, and it still feels like a sauna.

That same evening I arrived in Tokyo last week, I had dinner with Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manolo Lopez, DOT attache Val Cabansag and some executives of a top Japanese corporation. We spoke about the summer heat in Tokyo and we all agreed that it's pretty fierce compared to what we know in Manila even if the actual numbers say otherwise.


The Japanese take their heat very seriously as well. Japanese TV is full of shows that tell people how to beat the heat.

There are all kinds of anti-heat food and drinks now on sale in supermarkets and grocery stores. Some clothing manufacturers are even selling jackets and shirts with built-in mini electric fans attached to them.

UV protective clothing are also experiencing brisk sales: from UV umbrellas and caps to long gloves for driving and special UV long-sleeved shirts. You name it, the Japanese have probably already invented it.


Talk show hosts are also talking themselves hoarse to remind people to take salt and liquids to avoid dehydration, and people on the streets are being interviewed one after the other about the heat and they're all saying the same thing: "We've lost our appetite in the heat," or "We don't really feel like doing much in the heat."

Apparently, many restaurants are getting into the picture as well, and coming up with menus to beat the heat. You're supposed to eat food with less oil and avoid meat -- which is exactly what I didn't do at all during my stay.

When I wasn't eating pasta -- having discovered almost by accident a small but excellent restaurant that serves some of the best simple pasta I've ever tasted -- I was doing justice to plates upon plates of wagyu at every opportunity.

And now that we're back in Manila, it's time to get onto that anti-typhoon kare-kare regimen again...


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