Tokyo Climate versus Houston Climate

November 8th, 2007

Actually, this post is about Japanese climate, not just Tokyo, but I like parallelism in my post titles.

Japan is a hot, humid country pretty much overall.  And Houston is a hot, muggy climate.  They probably post equal temperatures (in fact, Houston probably has higher temperatures), but, man, is Japan hotter.

It all comes down to the background of the two locations.

If you look at Japanese history, you really only reach a period of overall prosperity high enough that everyone could have an air conditioner sometime post-war.  Probably not until the 1970’s.  That means that, for the last, say, 35,000 years, Japan has been inhabited primarily by people living in a hot, muggy climate.  This has resulted in “hot” being taken as “just right”, for the most part.

Houston, on the other hand, experienced a massive population boom in the 1970’s.  While it may have hundreds of years of hot weather experience, it found itself in the 1970’s suddenly half-filled with people from the bitterly cold tundras of the northeast, who can’t abide by or handle the heat, and thus flood every available enclosed space with cold air, and, in the case of the incredibly-stupidly-timed July 1990 Houston G8 economic summit, vainly but scrappily trying to air-condition the mid-summer outdoors with giant air conditioning stacks.

This results in Houston having the highest number of air-conditioners per capita of any city in the US, if not the world.

Japan, on the other side, has gone to the other extreme: air conditioners are relatively commonplace, but often set to very high temperatures.  There are “mild air-conditioning” cars on the trains for people who can’t handle strong air-conditioning.  There is an incredibly pervasive belief that sleeping with the air conditioning on makes one sick (which I only managed to convince my wife was untrue by virtue of the fact that I don’t repeatedly fail to do so).  People talk about how walking into supermarkets gives them headaches due to the cold.  People blame summer colds on the temperature differentials between the sweltering outdoors and the brisk and pleasant indoors.  And people start wearing long-sleeve shirts at the drop of a hat.

When winter comes around, it’s a whole different story.  Colds due to temperature differentials between the icy winds outside and the Chernobyllic superheated department stores?  Pish posh.  “Mild heating cars” on trains?  Bah!  All heaters are set to “boil”, and nobody complains except us foreigners.  There are a million complaints against cooling air, but heating air is something everyone can enjoy.

There’s one other quirky thing about the Japanese approach to temperature, which is: clothing.  Japanese clothing, from what I can tell, is entirely based on what the temperature is outside.  My workplace has a lot of computers, so there is no possibility of turning the A/C off.  It hovers around 22 to 25 degrees all year.  In the summer, people wear short-sleeved shirts.  In the winter, they wear long-sleeved shirts, and are amazed (amazed, I say!) that I wear short-sleeved shirts.  This, despite the fact that the temperature in my office is the exact same temperature in July as it is in January.  But they’re convinced that I must be freezing half-to-death, because: hey, it’s winter!  It’s always cold in winter, everywhere!

What with global warming and excess energy use and environmental damage, I’m sure I’m going to have to get used to less A/C during the summer.  I just wish some science wonks somewhere could come up with some proof that setting the indoor temperature to 30 degrees in the winter is just as bad for the environment.

7 Responses to “Tokyo Climate versus Houston Climate”

  1. David Says:

    I suspect these differences of handling weather and seasons is because Japan is “the only country with 4 clearly distinct seasons in the world.” Or is it “the most clearly distinct?” So naturally they have to superheat air in building in the winter with such frigid icy 45-50 degree Fahrenheit weather son common in winter in Tokyo. Brrrrrr….

  2. David Says:

    Sorry, I can’t spell. I meant “so common in winter.”

  3. bugbread Says:

    I always enjoyed asking my students what the European composer Vivaldi was famous for writing whenever they brought up the 4 seasons trope.

  4. Jesse Says:

    I’m really excited for the day when a health-friendly, technological alternative to sweat glands hits the market. I’m pretty sure I’d rather have a faucet on my forehead or a camel hump than sit in a mobile sauna for an hour, (read: densha) every day, all winter holding everything I’d been wearing over my t-shirt… On the other hand, a camel hump would suck on the densha, too; can you imagine the irritated glances? Some sweaty hog like myself will have a scientific breakthrough someday, and I’ll be there, in an Akihabara plastic-surgery shop, having all my sweat glands removed by surgeons in maid-cosplay and feelin’ GREAT. About the gland-removal, not about the maid-doctors. Eew.

  5. Jesse Says:

    Also, typhoons should be counted as their own season. Five seasons sounds much more impressive.

  6. bugbread Says:

    I always figured the rainy season should count. After all, it’s the rainy season. So Japan has 5 at least.

  7. Houston Air Conditioning Says:

    Great difference between them . but Air Conditioner is necessary for almost everyone. I want to know that …

    Can you run a portable air conditioner in a room without a window?


Leave a Reply