Summers in Japan can be a struggle. The blazing sun, plus high humidity, plus temperatures above 30°C/86°F can be exhausting – even for Japanese-summer veterans. So, how can you enjoy a Japanese garden in Tokyo during the stifling summer without suffering from heatstroke? Well, as part of the “Heatstroke Zero Project”,Hamarikyu Gardensis one-of-eight Japanese Gardens in Tokyo that are helping visitors keep cool by providing free sun-protection umbrellas. The Heatstroke Zero Project is a collaboration between the Japan Weather AssociationandTokyo Metropolitan Park Association.
On a hot July afternoon, I ventured out of my air-conditioned den to test out the parasols at Hamarikyu Gardens.
What is it Like to Experience Summer in Japan?
Actually, this is my first experience of the hot and humid Japanese summer. As a British person who is more familiar with grey skies and rain at this time of the year (and the rest of the year), it has been quite a shock to my system. Usually I am quite the “sun-chaser”. The absence of sun in the U.K. trained me to drop everything and head outside when it finally did decide to show its face. In Japan though, many people (now including me) prefer to avoid venturing outside altogether, or at the very least, they stick to the shade.
With most Japanese gardens only open between 10am-5pm, visiting one most likely requires braving the heat. Thankfully though, the Japanese are well accustomed to their summers and have created wide-spread awareness of the dangers of heatstroke. As well as offering numerous ways to avoid it – including the sun-protection umbrellas!
Which Gardens are Offering Parasols, and When Exactly?
Anyone choosing to take a wander between 21st July and 18th September will be able to borrow a traditional Japanese umbrella from a participating parks’ entrance. Unfortunately though, the parasols need to be returned at the end of your garden visit… But with all of the gardens being accessible within 8-minutes walk from the nearest train station, you won’t need to stay in the sunshine for too long!
The following gardens are participating in the programme:
– Hamarikyu (7-mins walk from Shiodome Station, Toei Subway Oedo Line)
– Kyu-Shibarikyu (1-min walk from Hamamatsucho Station, JR Yamanote Line)
Hamarikyu is a pond-centred garden which is surrounded by seawater from Tokyo Bay. It features a teahouse (Nakajima no Ochiya), flower gardens and even showcases cherry blossom during the spring. It is also only a short walk from Shiodome Station. But nevertheless, by the time I had arrived at the main entrance, Otemon Gate, my face had already started the “cooling-down process” by covering itself in a thin layer of sweat. I know, this isn’t particularly pleasant, but it’s the reality of summertime in Japan – well, at least for me!
In attempt to cool-down my overheated face, I picked-up an umbrella from the ticket booth area. However, being quite an unobservant person, I probably wouldn’t have seen them if I didn’t know they were there – so keep your eyes peeled! In fact, it was only after I had extended my blue umbrella that some other visitors also noticed the parasol-collection box. They then proceeded to pick their favourite colours and start posing for pictures together. As it turns out, the umbrellas are both functional and beautiful! They’re available in various bold reds, blues, greens and purple, and they create a lovely contrast to the prevailing green backdrops.
It took about 10-minutes from opening the umbrella for my face to finally cool down! Only then, could I notice the difference that the parasol made. Not only had my “sweat-veil” disappeared, I could also walk faster than 1km per hour. If you’re in Tokyo over the summer months, why not try one out for yourself and let us know what you think?
Tamara fell in love with Tokyo during a two-week trip around Japan and Korea in 2015. After a few excursions in Europe and a year of “life-admin”, she finally moved to Shinjuku in 2017. She now spends most of her time memorising Kanji, discovering Japanese gardens and running through the streets of Shinjuku in search of new coffee shops. Her perfect day would involve retro games or plum wine, or even more preferably, both.