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bar news and views

538: Pool party
Keep your cool this summer with a visit to one of Tokyo’s many pools. Metropolis shows you where to take the plunge.
536: Don't sweat it
With the hot and humid months upon us, Cristy Burne share some tips on staying cool.
534: Swept away
Put away your broomsticks—all you really need to soar through the clouds is an armful of nylon and a good gust. Cristy Burne checks out the air up there.
532: Tee time
Can’t keep it on the fairway? The ‘yips’ invaded your game? Rob Smaal finds a few experienced golf pros who can work out your kinks on the links.
530: Balancing act
An ancient science is helping modern men and women find peace, health and the always elusive “balance.” Tama M. Lung takes a closer look at ayurveda.
528: Kicking on
Former K-1 Japan champion Nicholas Pettas shares his love of martial arts at the new Spirit Gym in Nogizaka. Chris Betros goes along to watch.
526: On call
A revolutionary daily disease self-management system is making life easier for diabetics. Chris Betros finds out about Lifewatcher.
524: Team spirit
From rugby to roller hockey, Tokyo is teeming with sports clubs for the expat athlete. Rob Smaal shows you how to get in the game.
522: Type casting
Second-generation blood-type expert Toshitaka Nomi looks at the links between blood classifications and health. Mick Corliss reports.
520: Like a rock
Climbing instructor Luke Kearns gets a grip on Tokyo's best indoor climbing gyms.
516: The personal touch
Madonna and Matsui aren't the only ones who need help staying fit. Hanna Kite pumps it up with the top personal trainers in Tokyo.
514: From here to maternity
Kavitha Rao turns to a handful of Tokyo experts to track down baby basics for nervous expat mothers-to-be.
502: Tour de Morton, part deux
Don Morton gets back on two wheels for a leisurely ride out toward Haneda Airport.


Don't sweat it

With the hot and humid months upon us, Cristy Burne share some tips on staying cool.

If you like it hot, you've come to the right place. Temperatures in Tokyo have nearly doubled over the last three months, and we've only just begun. The Japan Meteorological Agency is predicting about 15 days of plus-30C (86F) temperatures this month, and things will only get hotter as we plow into August.

If you're more into arctic climes, summer in Japan can be a big headache. In fact, the symptoms of heat exhaustion are similar to those of a good night out: fatigue, nausea, a high pulse rate and shallow breathing. But it doesn't have to be this way. Sweat the small stuff, and you can play all summer long.


Body heat
In the '30s Tokyo spent nearly two months of every year below freezing. This figure has dropped to less than five days a year. While climate change means more palatable winters, Tokyo's summers have been sent soaring. The Japan Meteorological Agency has recorded an increase of three degrees in the last 100 years.

And when things get hot, your body switches on the sweat. Sweat evaporation acts as a heat drain: every molecule that makes the break from your body and into the big blue takes with it a dose of your heat energy. Your body makes the most of this, channeling extra blood to your extremities, increasing blood flow to your hands, feet and head, and providing that fresh-faced flush. All of this hot blood steers heat energy to the surface, and the heat energy acts as fuel to launch more of your sweat into the unknown. Voila, your excess heat is exported away on millions of water molecule star troopers, and you're left feeling fresh and breezy.

This cooling system goes off the rails when things in space get a little crowded. When the surrounding air is already thick with water molecules, your sweat has to get in line for takeoff. Evaporation is slowed, and your cooling system takes a dramatic hit. Welcome to summer in Japan.

Tokyo's humidity goes up in the summer and stays up, averaging 75 percent in July and 72 percent in August. At these levels, your body is working overtime to quit the heat, but your sweat is going nowhere fast.

"If the sweat runs down your face and drips off your nose and never evaporates, it might be wise to postpone outdoor exercise," says Joann Bally, a personal trainer and marathon walker. Bally also says that the heat shouldn't get in the way of your health: take a few extra precautions, and you can keep pumping all through summer. "Plan your hot weather exercise for early or late in the day, or even indoors," she advises. "Expose as much skin as modesty allows to facilitate evaporation of sweat. Drink water. Drink before, during, and after exercise, even if you don't feel thirsty."


More hot body tips
Peel: Potassium-rich foods like bananas help to keep your body salts balanced and prevent muscle cramps. For a super-cool snack, pop a pre-peeled banana in the freezer.

Cool: Overheating isn't just a problem for the elderly or infirm. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are serious health issues that can pack a punch at any age. Feeling weak or dizzy is a good sign that you're feeling the heat. Treat preliminary symptoms by resting somewhere cool, applying wet sheets or towels, and drinking water.

Imbibe: Make those vending machines sing. Soft-drink sales enjoy a mighty spike over summer, with mineral-water sales at Kirin Beverage up by a massive 40 percent in the heat of 2001, closely followed by beer with a rise of 10 percent. "We're hoping for this summer to be a hot one," says Kirin rep Makoto Honda.

Sop: Dab with oil-removing cosmetic sheets, or carry a hand towel for drippy moments. Sopping sweat won't help you cool down, but it does keep you looking civilized.

Defrizz: Your hair strands include water molecules bound up with hair proteins as well as absorbed into the hair. In humid conditions your hair absorbs more water, stretching and swelling and introducing frizz-or-flop factor. Avoid humidity-induced bad-hair days with shampoo and conditioner for fine hair, and a spray-on volumizer for your roots.

Shop: Although popping in and out of air-conditioning will confuse your temperature regulation, there's a certain appeal to a day in the cool of Tokyo's department stores, many of which turn down the heat over summer.


Steamy windows
Japan's summers can also have your house in a sweat. Humidity in your home is already high due to cooking, showering and use of the dryer. If moisture levels get any higher, you'll not only be living in a sauna, you'll be asking for trouble. Dr. Barbara Ozarska, a scientist with Australia's CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, says your furniture and floorboards can start to soak up the excess. "Wooden furniture 'moves' when exposed to extremes of temperature and humidity. This can cause timber splitting, glue failure and fine crack lines."

Ozarska says it is also important to keep the heat in mind if you're shipping goods overseas. "Temperatures in shipping containers can rise to more than 50C (122F), and relative humidity can fluctuate between 45 and 90 percent," she says. These conditions will wreak havoc with your heirlooms. To protect your gear, Ozarska suggests using packing materials to help insulate against extreme temperature, and making sure that your container is stowed in an unexposed position.

Cranking the air conditioner won't do much to save your furniture. Air conditioners reduce humidity, but their overuse can dry out your gear. Wooden furniture has a natural moisture content of around 12 percent, and this can more than halve in an air-conditioned room. "When wood dries out it shrinks, resulting in splitting and cracking," explains Ozarska. So what's the solution? Avoid extreme swings by keeping your home at a constant moisture level. Keep things cool by using extractor fans in the bathroom and kitchen, drying your laundry outside and putting your potted plants outdoors.


More hot house tips

Go natural: Tatami mats help to regulate moisture, soaking up sweat and absorbing humidity. But there's a catch: moist tatami is a big come-on for dani ticks, mold and mildew. If your mat's moisture content gets above 13 percent, you're living on the edge. Protect yourself with aerosol cans of tick-killer, complete with a needle for sticking deep into the tatami zone. Airing your tatami mats in the sun will also help them dry out.

Prevent: Stick moisture-absorbing boxes in your cupboards. These boxes are the Big Brother of the "don't eat" packets you find inside new shoes. They're available in sets of three from chemists and supermarkets, and they're cheaper than replacing a mildewed suit.

Escape: Head to Hokkaido. While we're cooking in Kanto, things are luscious up North. This month temperatures will average around 22C (72F), with only half the rain that is usually dumped on Tokyo.

Condense: Dehumidifiers are a must-have summer appliance. They suck humid air over a cold surface, stripping heat energy and condensing water vapor back into a liquid. The beautiful thing about condensation is that any cold surface will do. Do your bit to dehumidify this summer by watching beads of moisture form on the side of a cold drink.


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