Japanese firms get creative to make the summer no sweat

With the imminent arrival of Japan's notoriously sticky summer months, companies here are scrambling to provide the coolest and most effective ways to keep the heat at bay.

Forecasters say this year is likely to be a particularly hot and humid one, and that will be made worse by restrictions on the use of air conditioning units because of power shortages caused by the destruction of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

In the wake of that disaster, tens of millions of people are looking for the best way to keep cool, with many of the products being released here likely to find their way onto overseas markets in the future.

Major stores are bracing themselves for increased demand for products that will keep users cool, with the Yokohama branch of the Tokyu Hands store, for example, setting up a display of new products on its ground floor.

Alongside traditional fans are a selection of neck-chillers, pens with battery-operated fans on their caps, a selection of cooling body sprays and fashionably designed cool packs.

And judging from the consumers snapping up the products, people are concerned at just how long and just how hot the coming summer is going to be. One of the most popular items is proving to be the Cool Scarf, a stylish cloth pouch that contains a cooling gel that a user places in the fridge overnight and is ready to be wrapped around the neck first thing in the morning.

M-Craft Co. has developed a slender backpack that can be filled with a gel that is cooled in the freezer before the "Ice Ruck" is slipped over one's shoulders. The Yagihashi department store chain has started selling pillowcases that contain a pocket for a vacuum-sealed pad that contains a refrigerated, moist fiber pack designed to stay cool long enough for a user to get to sleep.

Developed with bedding supplier Nishikawa Sangyo Co., the pillow and cool pack sets cost Y2,079 (€17.77).

Elsewhere, home appliance stores are promoting electric fans - with energy-saving versions particularly appealing to consumers - while Fast Retailing Co., the operator of the Uniqlo chain of discount clothing stores, has increased output of loose and thin clothing ahead of the summer season.

Given that companies and even the government has voiced support for staff wearing cooler and more casual clothing at the office, Uniqlo has launched a new range of polo shirts, men's chino trousers and linen jackets that are smart enough to wear to the office.

JR

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