In the never-ending hunt to find ways to keep cool, many in Japan have been flocking to ‘cool towels’, which miraculously claim to provide a cooling sensation with the mere touch of moisture.

However, do these man-made wonders have the goods to keep people cooler than pure ice in such scorching weather? On this tremendously hot and sweaty day, I was tasked with finding out…

The Mission

Waking up I peeled myself off the sheets like every other 30-plus-degree day when the phone rang. It was my editor at RocketNews24 with another ‘mission’ for me. Expecting that they wanted me to go shake hands with an otter I excitedly answered.

“Hi Steve, we’re reading a lot about these cool towels recently. We’d like you to go walk around in the heat with one and see how it goes.”
“Okay then, have a good one. [beep]”

Waving goodbye to the otter in my mind I geared up for the job.

I reached into the freezer and grabbed my daily bottle of ice. Every day I rotate two bottles so they can freeze for a full 24 hours making them so cold they produce an aura of magical frostiness.

After a little bit of research and stuffing my trusty companion into the bag, I hit a preplanned course to a department store where I could pick up one of these new-fangled cool towels. This would be about three kilometers, or 45 minutes of walking in the mid-afternoon sun.

In most parts of Japan, buildings are low and shade is scarce which means you have to use every inch you have, like diagonally following the shadows cast by utility poles. No, seriously.

After 2km I was only breaking a mild sweat and opened my bag to check on the ice. The unzipping released a pleasant cloud of coolness. The ice was completely intact and ready to offer me some relief.

The sweet spots for pressing an ice bottle are the forehead, back of neck and the divot in the bottom rear of your skull. After pressing you should get a trickle of freezing water inside the bottle that you can drink down for extra relief.

Arriving at my midway destination I was given an Osaka favorite Ze-Roku ice cream snack from what I think was an angel to replenish.

Now it was time to check out the towel.

■ The Cool Towel

There’s a wide variety of cool towels available now, but I went with an Ultra Cool brand available for about 700 yen (US$7). It works by soaking up a large amount of water which gets trapped in the fibers and is released steadily to provide a cooling sensation.

According to the package I just had to soak it in water, ring it out and then shake it dry.

A lot of the shop displays seemed to recommend wrapping it around your neck for the maximum effect, so I did, and it was FABULOUS!

After walking about a kilometer it did well. There was definitely a cooling sensation from the cloth but it felt a little prickly and unnatural compared to the pure ice. By this time the sweat started running from my head.  That’s when it dawned on me; sweat = waterish type stuff, so I went TMNT style.

This way worked exceptionally well. Every once in a while I sweated from my head the cloth amplified the cooling effect. The downside was every one kept staring at me and by bright blue Leonardo headband.  One lady even laughed at me while she wore the exact same cloth around her neck.


The big difference between the two was the ice’s ability to provide an occasional refreshing drink and the cool towel’s constant cooling power. So, let’s go to the hour-walking sweat index for some quantitative analysis.

They both suck.

I think it’s time we as a human race forget trying to beat the heat and start worshiping the sun like our ancestors did. In fact I have it on good authority from the elf on my shoulder that the sun is about to do some crazy stuff in the coming months but that could just be a figment of my dehydration.

Good night, nurses!

Photos: RocketNews24