National

Rainy season ends in Japan's Kanto-Koshin region, giving way to intense heat

by Hinano Kobayashi

Contributing Writer

The rainy season has ended in Tokyo and other areas in the Kanto-Koshin region of eastern and central Japan 30 days later than last year, the Meteorological Agency said Monday, giving way to intense heat.

Rainfall between June 7 and July 28 hit 526 milimeters in Choshi, Chiba Prefecture, 480.5 mm in Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture, 459 mm in Utsunomiya, Tochigi Prefecture, and 446 mm in Yokohama.

Now that the rainy season has passed, temperatures of over 31 degrees are forecast through this weekend across the nation. In the cities of Osaka and Fukuoka, temperatures are expected to exceed 35 degrees. On Monday the weather agency urged precautions against heatstroke, advising that people stay hydrated and find places to cool off.

A 28-year old man in a mascot costume who was training for a dance performance died of heatstroke Monday at Hirakata Park, a theme park in Osaka Prefecture. As of 5 p.m. the same day, the Tokyo Fire Department said 63 people had been hospitalized for heatstroke in the capital, with two people in their 70s and 80s in serious condition.

Last Saturday, a 91-year-old woman died of heatstroke in Saitama Prefecture after she was found lying in her garden at around noon. According to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency, about 95,000 people were taken to hospitals for heatstroke during the May-September period last year, exceeding the previous high of 58,000 logged in 2013.

According to the health ministry, 1,500 people died of heatstroke in 2018. “It’s particularly dangerous when it suddenly gets hot and the high temperature remains,” said Fumiaki Fujibe, a professor of climatology at Tokyo Metropolitan University.

A study by the university found that the death rate due to heatstroke is high in the cooler northern regions and among the elderly. The death rate also tends to rise when the heat continues for long periods.

The heat is also a concern as Tokyo looks ahead to the 2020 Olympics, which are set to take place from July 24 to Aug. 9.

The Environment Ministry has said there were 12 days with a temperature of over 31 degrees near the new National Stadium in Tokyo during that period in 2018. The ministry advises people “to stop exercising” when the temperature reaches that level.

Tokyo’s planned measures to combat the heat include mist sprays, tents for shade and the distribution of ice packs and fans.

A total of 136 kilometers of roads in the capital, including the marathon course, will be paved with heat-reflecting materials that officials say will lower temperatures by 8 degrees. The marathon will start at 6 a.m. in order to avoid the hottest period of the day.

Experts in the health promotion division of Sawai Pharmaceutical Co. warn that the elderly, children, patients who have recently had surgery, people not getting sufficient amounts of sleep and those with poor diets are more likely to get heatstroke due to their weak thermoregulatory function.

They also say regular exercise and hot baths also help people get acclimatized to the heat as long as they maintain hydration and sodium levels.

Other recommended steps to prevent heatstroke include walking in the shade and wearing clothes made of cotton. It is also advised that room temperatures be kept lower than 28 degrees and fans be used.

If a person falls unconscious due to heatstroke, the Environment Ministry advises calling an ambulance immediately. Before it arrives, it advises loosening any tight-fitting clothing and moving the patient into the shade or to a cooler place.

Using ice to cool the neck, armpits and hip joints is also advised. Conscious patients should be given cold drinks, according to the guidance, which was posted to the ministry’s website.

Meanwhile, a recent survey by Kao Corp. found that some 70 percent of foreign residents in Tokyo, including those from the Middle East and Africa, said Japan’s summers were hotter than those in their home countries.

The online survey, which received responses from 150 foreign residents of Tokyo, found that 75.3 percent experienced fatigue and difficulty sleeping due to the heat.

“It seems that the high temperature and humidity unique to Japan caused people to feel (Japan is) hotter,” an official of Kao Corp. said.

Information from Kyodo added

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