Combating Summer

Those of us used to drier climates lament the inconveniences brought upon us by the heat, humidity and rainy season in Okinawa. If you’re concerned about the mold, fungi and crawly critters that may have taken up residence in your home, check out the below guide to prepping your home for a comfy summer. All of the items listed below can be found at your local grocery store or variety stores, such as Daiei, Big One, San-A, Makeman etc.


Moisture

As you’ll notice within a few seconds of stepping off the plane, Okinawa is very humid, usually sitting at 95 to 100 percent humidity during summer. This means that water collects everywhere. During rainy season, you’ll even find it dripping off the walls at school. There are a few things you can do to minimize the damage, though.

Buy kansouzai (乾燥剤) or shikketori (湿気取り) in bulk! These are little packets or plastic containers that hold a dehydrating agent. Stash these packets in your clothes drawers, shoes and pockets of your favorite outfits. Put the containers in closets (especially clothing and futon closets), cupboards, kitchen drawers and dark corners. You can get one of two types: disposable, tsukaisute (使い捨て) or re-usable, saishiyou (再使用). Make sure you put these upright in a stable position, as they collect moisture very quickly, and be careful of how you handle them when disposing, as they can burn and stain.

Pick up some plastic bags for storing your clothes and shoes. These are airtight bags and are especially good for clothes you won’t be wearing again until it’s colder. Throw a few shikketori packets in for good measure and all should be well until next season. Line your drawers with boukabi bouchuzai (防かび 防虫剤) which prevents bugs from coming and mold from forming.

One of the first things that you will notice when you get to Okinawa in July is that everyone carries a small hand towel with them. Although it may strange at first, it is highly recommended that you carry one with you, as you will sweat profusely here in the summer, even if you are not very active. If you don’t want to carry around a towel, a handkerchief would be useful. Not only are towels or handkerchiefs good for wiping off sweat, they are good for drying your hands off after you wash them.


Mold

Buy yourself some baking soda or sodium bicarbonate tansan suiso natorium, which is a natural way to kill mold. Kabitori kabi killer is a more powerful, albeit less natural mold-removing agent. As the chemicals can be harmful, wear rubber gloves while cleaning.

CAUTION: Do not mix these with other cleaners, as they can react and create potent fumes.

Shu horuda are silicone gel packets that can be slipped into your shoes to prevent mold.

Remember that mold loves tatami mats too, so put your futon away every morning, lest a mold colony multiply under your futon. Air your futon outside on sunny days and beat it with a futon tataki, a stick that helps release the dust mites and other allergy-inducing nuisances that might dwell in your bedding. You might also consider having your futons dry cleaned once a season. Your local dry cleaning shops offer this service for a reasonable fee.


Air Conditioners

If your filter is removable, remove it and clean it out (I recommend taking the filters outside to do this…it can be a dusty mess!). If your air conditioner has a “dry” setting, keep it on this as much as possible as it helps to draw moisture from the air. On especially muggy or rainy days, consider hanging your laundry in the room with the air conditioner as the artificial air serves as a better “dryer” than the natural air.


Pesky Insects

When you have unwanted visitors in your home, try out some of the following remedies:

  • Hosan Dango: Cockroach preventative medicine, made from boric acid and onions.
  • Namekuji kusuri: A sprinkling of this around your drains will keep the slugs from entering your bathroom or kitchen.
  • Gokiburi hoi hoi‚ sacchuzai: Roach trap (the type with a sticky bottom); this one gets rid of roaches and tatami mat ticks.
  • Baru-san: An insecticide bomb, may be used for ticks and fleas.
  • Dani taiji: Insecticide, which can be immersed in water or lit to emit fumes.
  • Katori Senko: Incense coil, light these to ward off mosquitoes.
  • Vape, denki katori: Electrically heats a small pad or liquid filled bottle that releases fumes.

Insect Bites

  • Mushi sasare yobo-zai: Insect repellent, apply directly to your skin. Usually found in the spray type.
  • Kayumi-dome: If the above fails and you get bitten anyway, this helps to relieve the itch.

Sun

We’ve all been warned about the debilitating effects of UV on our precious skin. This is especially true in Okinawa where the UV index is extremely high and the suns’ rays very intense. Always wear your sunscreen (hiyake dome – 日焼け止め), even on overcast days, and preferably a hat too. It is recommended to bring lots of sunscreen from home as it is expensive and rather weak here. Be especially careful between 10am and 3pm, as this is when the sun is at it’s strongest. Just as a note, you can wear and re-apply 50-block for a whole day at the beach and still come away with a great tan. Anything less, and you may burn like a lobster!


Heatstroke

To ward off heatstroke, be sure to drink a lot of water. Natural fruit juices also work well, as they provide you with carbohydrates. There are also sports drinks (Pocari Sweat, Aquarius) that replace ions in your body and good for combating dehydration. On especially sweaty days, it’s easy to live on a diet of kakigori (カキ氷 – shaved ice with syrup) but don’t forget to consume decent amount of salty foods as well. The salt helps your body retain water, thus slowing down the process of dehydration. Remember that alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which induce liquid-loss in your body. When drinking anything with alcohol or caffeine, make sure to at least match, and if possible exceed, that amount in water.

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