Earlier sunrises and later evenings: summer is here, my friends. While some may thrive in the brighter, warmer days, I’ve never been one for the heat. Before my first visit to Kyoto in the summer, I worried about how I’d handle the humidity. But when I arrived, I was surprised by how my Japanese friends made their homes and everyday lives adaptable to the summer heat. Here’s some of their advice on staying cool, without air-conditioning:
Flutter a fan. Ubiquitous in Japan are folding fans, also called sensu. Chic and functional, Japanese folding fans release a delicate waft of fragrance when used, bringing the mind to cool temple interiors. You can enjoy the breeze of a folding fan anytime by tucking one in your bag.
Let in the breeze. In Kyoto, many traditional wooden homes are a perfect symbol of adaptability. Large windows and sliding doors invite a summer breeze. Bamboo blinds, called sudare are designed to let fresh air in, while keeping the heat outside. Try drawing the curtains when the sun directly shines through your windows, or opening the doors inside your home for a cross-breeze.
Cooling waters. If you ever visit a ryokan (a traditional Japanese inn) in Kyoto during the summer, you might notice the grounds in front of the entrance are wet, even if it hasn’t rained. Sprinkling home entrances with water, called uchimizu, is a custom in Japanese hospitality. Being around water in general can have a calming and cooling effect. Pools, water parks, lakes and fountains are all lovely spots to beat the heat.
Dress for the weather. In Japan, men and women wear yukata, which are lightweight cotton kimono. Breathable and effortless, yukata don’t have any zippers, buttons or laces to worry about. You can achieve the same ease by choosing breezy natural-fiber garments for stylish comfort. Silk is my favorite.
The sounds of summer. Families often hang wind chimes, called furin, outside, which captures the breeze and soothes the ears with a soft tinkling. The gentle chiming reminds the listener of the refreshing winds—just thinking cool thoughts can bring you relief from the heat.
Enjoy the season. Summer is a season of celebrations in Japan. Even after the sun goes down, outdoor festivals linger into the night with mesmerizing fireworks displays, games and other performances. What better way to enjoy a warm night than to be outside? Even when there are no festivities around, a tranquil walk at sunset or spending time in a backyard are beautiful ways to relish in a summer night.
I hope some of these ideas inspire a cooler summer. How do you like to stay refreshed?