National / Media | Japan Pulse

Heated debate boils over on social media as mercury soars in Japan

by Patrick St. Michel

Contributing Writer

Talking to others about the weather has always been a quick and easy conversation topic. The same goes for social media users and online news outlets in Japan, which love to discuss meteorological issues. The arrival of intense summer heat in recent weeks has invigorated netizens, who have gone online to share their experiences and discuss what is likely to be the new norm thanks to climate change.

It didn’t take long after the rainy season officially came to an end for extreme heat and humidity to set in across the country. In the first three days of August, the temperature in Kumagaya, Saitama Prefecture, topped 35 degrees Celsius, prompting people not only to complain about it on Twitter, but also to point out that such conditions aren’t suitable for humans to function in.

Online outlets such as Huffington Post Japan and J-Cast News posted articles focusing on the heat on a daily basis. Users on Twitter, meanwhile, attracted myriad “likes” by repurposing familiar internet images for the Japanese summer.

One of the biggest talking points for those involved in the online discourse was heatstroke, specifically those who died as a consequence of the extreme temperatures. The story of an 11-month-old baby being left in a car and dying because of the heat sparked plenty of discussion, with numerous people urging parents to remember not to leave their children alone in motor vehicles.

Netizens also expressed shock at the news of a 28-year-old man who died from heatstroke while working as a costumed character at a theme park. Many questioned why the facility’s operator would make anyone perform in such conditions.

Even traditional summer events attracted new attention due to the weather. The prestigious national summer baseball tournament at Koshien Stadium began last Tuesday, and Twitter user @Simon_Sin said it was ridiculous that the annual competition has a “hydration break” when, in fact, players are allowed to drink water whenever they want in such weather. Other outlets focused on offering advice to those attending the tournament. Similarly, the extreme weather revived concern about the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games in Tokyo, with many wondering how athletes and spectators alike will cope with such conditions.

Still, many netizens have focused on how to stay safe in such conditions in recent weeks. Sports drink Pocari Sweat teamed up with popular anime “Cells At Work!” to create a short video about how to avoid heatstroke.

The drink’s parent company, Otsuka Pharmaceutical Co., released a similar guide for consumers, making additional suggestions on ways to keep cool, albeit without the famous cartoon flourishes.

Twitter users also got in on the act. One popular tweet reminded people that alcohol, juices and coffee don’t keep people hydrated, while also listing various drinks and food that actually help combat dehydration. Others posted comics and illustrations that offered guidance, while the issue of pet heatstroke proved to be popular, with numerous articles outlining how to keep critters chilled. One zoo arguably showed the best way to keep an ostrich feeling refreshed.

Social media users have also been focused on other heat-preventing tips. The maker of a special cup that keeps beverages cool must have been overjoyed when Twitter shared tips on how to use the product to keep PET bottles and cans cold. Other sites listed items that provide some respite from the heat. One essential item that is increasingly proving hard to get? Air conditioners — at least in Hokkaido, based on photos of electronics store shelves left barren.

While much of the online conversation was pretty straightforward, two clear trends appear to have emerged this year.

First, hand-held electric fans appear to be the year’s biggest hit.

Last but certainly not least, Weather News noted that just 4 percent of men use sun umbrellas despite doing a good job to protect users from the heat. The post offered practical advice, but also touched on gender issues and the risk men put themselves in to conform to norms. It’s worth wondering if the future of online weather discourse goes beyond just talking about the temperature.