A heat wave hit Tokyo and other parts of Japan on Saturday, kicking off a dangerous summer as at least four people drowned nationwide while seeking ways to beat the heat.

Tokyo also was hit by sudden bouts of strong winds and rain at around 3 p.m. that plastered city dwellers by surprise.

The Meteorological Agency said temperatures ranged from 35.4 in Okayama Prefecture, 35.7 in Tokai, Aichi Prefecture, and in Kuwana, Mie Prefecture, and 35.8 in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, to as high as 36.1 in Kofu, Yamanashi Prefecture, 36.0 in Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture, and a sizzling 37.3 in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka Prefecture.

Tokyo got as hot as 35.7 in Nerima Ward and 35.5 in Fuchu in the west. But the weather suddenly turned nasty at around 3 p.m. as squalls and heavy rain blasted central parts of the city for several minutes.

The furious weather hit so suddenly that two window washers were stranded about 40 meters over the ground after heavy winds disabled their gondola on the Time 24 building in Koto Ward. After hanging helplessly for about an hour, the two were rescued by the Tokyo Fire Department.

"I thought I was going to die," said window washer Atsushi Kawakami, 28. "The fire department officials and my boss kept encouraging us by saying 'No worries' on our mobile phone."

Others were less fortunate. Several drownings were reported as people flocked to rivers and beaches to beat the heat.

In Ogaki, Gifu prefecture, Okasima Masagilo Hevandro, 24, a Brazilian temporary worker from Mie Prefecture, was taken to a hospital after his relatives found he had sunk to the bottom of a river.

Police suspect that he slipped on a concrete bank, hit his head and fell into the river.

In Ashikita, Kumamoto Prefecture, junior high school student Masahiro Inaoka, 14, was found dead in the ocean about 20 meters from the beach.