Staying Cool and Sane (Or: How To Survive a Japanese Summer)

Having experienced a few of Japan’s notoriously hot and sticky summers, I’ve picked up some survival tricks that don’t necessitate cranking up the air conditioner. This was particularly important last summer, when energy-saving measures (setsuden) were in effect following March’s disaster. At the time, I was living in a dense Tokyo suburb that routinely ranks as the hottest city in the country. The heat-trapping effects of concrete and asphalt combined with the suffocating environment of a 15 square meter (roughly 160 square foot) apartment meant I had to devise some creative strategies for staying cool, not to mention sane. (Cold showers, frozen washcloths, and a trusty sensu were all critical components of this endeavor.)

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Ice Cream Dreams

Making ice cream doesn’t require a fancy electric ice cream maker, or even an old-fashioned hand-cranked one like the one I use, but a freezer is most definitely necessary. (Of course, ice cream has been around a lot longer than electric freezers, but that’s a post for another day.) Today, frozen food is so cheap and readily available that we often forget what a luxury it once was to simply have ice. Indeed, the notion that we now have machines to make frozen water seems both appalling and magical; what culture could be both so lazy and inspired as to invent a device for such a simple end? And yet ice machines and their kitchen brethren  – immersion blenders, coffee makers, and the rest – make a range of small, simple pleasures readily and widely accessible.* Chief among these simple pleasures, of course, is ice cream.

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