What makes Japanese summer more unbearable than the harsh heat of the desert?

Have we told you enough how hot it is in Japan right now? Just in case you’re out of the loop, Japan experienced its highest temperature ever recorded on Monday, which is over 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit), so hot that Japanese netizens are experimenting with cooking in and on their cars.

Of course, 40 degrees may not seem that hot in comparison to, say, desert heat, which can get up to 50 degrees or more. In spite of this, our Japanese language correspondent, Ahiru Neko, a seasoned traveler, thinks that the Japanese summer is far worse.

He’s been to Death Valley National Park in California, a desert and canyon landscape that has previously experienced the hottest temperature ever recorded on the Earth, so he knows about desert heat. When he visited last year, temperatures were well over 50 degrees, a full 10 degrees hotter than Japan’s current record.

Ahiru Neko says that the atmosphere there is like a dry sauna, with hot air hanging around you, oppressing you, burning; so hot that caution is necessary. The ground is so parched it crackles under your feet, all the moisture sucked into the dry air and evaporated by the sunlight.

There are no cool breezes to relieve you of this oppressive heat, and if there are any winds in Death Valley, they’re going to be hot, as if somebody turned on a rotating fan in the sauna. Anywhere you go, it’s hot and dry.

Yet, in spite of the high temperatures, hot winds, and dry weather, Ahiru Neko doesn’t remember thinking that the heat was unpleasant during his trip. That’s why, even though the temperatures in Death Valley are higher, the difference in the quality of heat between Death Valley and Japan makes Ahiru Neko convinced that Japan’s summer is worse.

The heat in Japan is actually far more unpleasant than in Death Valley, he says. The humidity is what makes it so bad; you can’t leave your house even for a moment without breaking a sweat. In most cases, by the time you finish your commute to work or school, you’re going to be drenched in sweat, your clothes will be sticky, and you will probably smell bad and feel disgusting.

What’s worse, air conditioners are rarely turned on in schools in Japan, causing students to suffer from heat stroke, and many businesses and offices keep their air conditioners to a strict 28 degrees to save energy. That means interiors are not very cool and have the same amount of humidity, so, basically, unless you take refuge in a department store, which is the only place where the AC is always blasting, you’re going to be hot and sticky all day.

By contrast, in Death Valley, Ahiru Neko didn’t sweat much, because it just evaporated into the dry atmosphere immediately. Plus, there was no lack of air-conditioned facilities there. When Ahiru Neko went into a building, it was always cool and refreshing, no matter how remote it was. There wasn’t a single building without the AC on, and that made a huge difference in his experience of the heat.

Of course, both summers are harsh, and Ahiru Neko only visited Death Valley for a short time, so his experience of desert heat is limited. However, since the quality of the summers are different and the culture of the places vary greatly, there’s a real argument for saying Japan’s wet, sticky summers are worse than even the dry, hot summers of Death Valley.

Images © SoraNews24
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