Japan heatwave: What Japan is buying to beat the heat

Japan’s record-breaking heatwave is showing no signs of cooling off as we’ve headed into the month of August. With temperatures reaching above 40°C (104°F) amid high humidity, Japan’s Fire and Disaster Management Agency has reported that more than 57,000 people were taken to hospital for heat-related ailments in the past three months.

While many city workers continue to don full business attire as they trek across town on crowded trains, the unprecedented high temperatures have driven some to seek out new and unusual methods of keeping cool through days of harsh sun and muggy nights.

Always on the lookout for head-turning data, Rakuten Ichiba’s very own professional fad finder, Jun Shimizu, also known as the Trend Hunter, has crunched the numbers. Compared to the previous year, Shimizu found that sales of heat-related goods jumped by a factor of 3.7 on the Rakuten Ichiba marketplace.

Read on to find out which products saw the biggest demand spikes in the Trend Hunter’s rankings.

Beating the heat on the street

Summer fashion has taken a turn in 2018, with an explosion in the popularity of “neck coolers.”

In the outdoor goods category, Rakuten Ichiba saw a 15-fold increase in demand for neck coolers, a kind of refrigerated collar with an integrated ice-pack designed to cool the wearer’s bloodstream, thereby providing relief to the entire body. Neck coolers are compact enough that they can be worn on the crowded train to work – which perhaps explains the sudden explosion in popularity. If you saw someone wearing one of these on the train while you sweated through your tie, wouldn’t you want one too?

AC jacket
An air-conditioned jacket for outdoor workers.

Other honorable mentions from the top 10 included air-conditioned clothes geared towards people who work outdoors, sales of which increased by a factor of 3.6. These high-tech garments feature electric fans that pump air across the wearer’s body, simulating the effect of a cool breeze. Also of note was a 3.2-fold jump in sales of parasols, a product which has enjoyed popularity through the ages but is also beginning to catch on among the male demographic.

Surviving at home

During July, Rakuten Ichiba recorded a 3.7-fold increase in sales of portable air conditioning units, essentially free-standing tower fans which produce chilled air. For those not fortunate enough to have AC installed at home or for those who just want to crank up the cold air, these affordable high-tech fans seem to be the item of choice.

Peppermint oil
Peppermint oil known for its cooling effect on the skin.

Shoppers are also looking to beat the heat in their sleep, tripling sales of cooling gel pillows. Others, meanwhile, are looking to Japanese peppermint oil (+50%) to provide skin relief from the high temperatures.

Summer gourmet saves the day

Among increasing demand for pickled plums, peaches, barley tea, watermelon and spicy food, beer sales have also jumped by around 50% over the summer. This goes against the overall downward trend suffered by the beer industry in recent decades as young people shift towards wine and spirits.

Nagashi-somen involves eating cold noodles that flow down a  flume.

Meanwhile, nagashi-somen – a fun summer activity that involves eating cold noodles that come flowing down a bamboo flume – is booming in a serious way. Ordinarily, the popular pastime is enjoyed outdoors or in restaurants, but several enterprising companies have created novel nagashi-somen kits to simulate the experience from the comfort of home.

The sudden popularity of home nagashi-somen kits already stood out in the Trend Hunter’s July Summer Ranking, but the continuing heatwave appears to have driven demand even higher, with Rakuten Ichiba recording an 11-fold increase in sales of the kits compared to the previous year.




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