Stepping out of the freezing, cold airplane into the damp heat of Okinawa, it almost takes my breath away. Not in a good way. My first thought is: Is this heat coming from the plane? Please, God, let it be coming from the plane.- It clearly wasn’t. I make my way down the jet way steps as the heat lashes at my skin and immediately makes me feel sweaty.
This thick humidity is now paired with the intense heat of the sun. It takes only a few minutes until I am drenched in sweat. I try to stay calm, try not to move too much. Maybe this overwhelming feeling of being hot will go away, the longer I am exposed to it. – It doesn’t. The flight into air conditioned rooms is from now on one of the priorities of my days here.
This was my experience when I first came to Okinawa. I meet a lot of people who come for a visit and go through the same experience like me. The weather app might show 32°C, but the heat is much more intense. The "feels like" temperature on the app often dances around in the 40’s.
What makes this paradise heat so intense? It's the humidity. It weighs on you and lingers, even when the sun is down. The heat is always present. But the Okinawans and everyone who lives on this beautiful island have learned to live with it, to survive it and even enjoy it. If you plan a trip to Okinawa or plan on moving out here, here are some tips for you on how to deal with the heat.
1. Keep calm and accept it
You will feel overwhelmed, sweaty, and hot. You will think: this is not how I pictured my stay here. What am I supposed to do? My first advice is keep calm. Get used to the idea that this heat is what you will deal with. And it will be okay! You will get used to it. Look at all the Okinawans walking around in jeans on a hot summer day. This will be you one day. I can say from experience, that after a while you come to accept the heat.
2. Dress for the heat
I know style is very important to us. We want our hair to look nice, our outfits to be perfect. But this will make living, working and sightseeing on Okinawa much harder. Keep your hair out of your face and up, if possible. Bring a change of clothes with you, if you will be riding your bike to work or do a lot of physical exercise. It's wonderful to change into a fresh shirt during the day. Flip-flops and open-toed sandals are better than boots and shoes. Hey, you are on a tropical island. Get into vacation mode. Wear the comfy shorts and the tank tops you can't wear in your usual environment. Island life is fun because of that.
3. Stay cool
Okinawans know the tricks to stay cool. There is water and refreshments in many public buildings, in town halls or at events. Make sure to stay hydrated. Plan on stopping at air conditioned malls for lunch or hang out times, rather than strolling around in the sun for hours at a time. Use products like Sea Breeze or Gatsby Ice Type deodorant paper to refresh your skin. Those wet towels and cooling gels really help. It makes your skin feel like you rubbed ice cubes on it.
4. Enjoy the island
Touring and experiencing Okinawa can be tough if you can't stand the heat. There is not much to see indoors on a tropical island. Plan beach trips to cool down during your sightseeing outings. The Churaumi Expo Park for example has a beach located right next to it. Stroll through the aquarium and then, before viewing the dolphin show and the Okinawan village outside, go for a half-an-hour swim! The water is beautiful and it will cool you down! Sun and heat are a part of this paradise. Enjoy it. Many will envy your experience.
If your stay is longer than a few weeks, take joy in the fact that as soon as October comes around, it will cool down and the most beautiful time of the year is ahead. Until that, embrace living on this beautiful island. Culture, fun, beaches and adventure await you!