Summer heatwave sees Japanese men discover parasols for protection and pleasure – but still ask their wives to do the buying
I was hesitant at first because not many men were using them, says one new ‘parasol man’, who has since discovered a whole new world of enjoyment amid Japan’s scorching summer temperatures. He is not alone
Parasols – normally regarded as items used by women – are proving to be increasingly popular with men in Japan, as dangerous heatwaves continue to grip the nation.
They have been attracting attention in recent years as a means of protection against the sun, but this summer sales of those for men have been rapidly rising amid the scorching heat, according to store officials.
“I think the extreme heat is winning over men’s embarrassment [of using them],” said a person related to the parasol industry.
Last year, officials of the Saitama prefectural government launched a group to promote the use of parasols among Japanese men. Members of the group use parasols during their commutes and for other activities.
Saitama, a prefecture north of Tokyo, includes Kumagaya, one of the hottest cities in the country. It shattered the nation’s record temperature on July 23 when the mercury hit 41.1 degrees Celsius (106 degrees Fahrenheit).
“I was hesitant at first because not many men were using them,” said Noriaki Fukuhara, 51, who recently made his debut as a higasa danshi (parasol man) – a term showing signs of catching on as a 2018 buzzword. He said that since he started using one, “a pleasant world has opened up for me”.
Takeshi Okumura, 35, is a member of the government-launched parasol group who has been using them for three years. “I would also recommend them for protecting children from heatstroke,” he said.
The promotion of men’s parasols is not new in Japan.
The Environment Ministry released the results of a survey in 2011 which showed the combination of parasols and the government’s “Cool-Biz” casual-wear campaign could reduce heat stress by about 20 per cent, but said it would be necessary to spread the idea among men.
In 2013, higasa danshi was nominated as buzzword of the year, as the presence of men with parasols began to be seen in society.
“While the number of users was gradually increasing, removing the ‘psychological barriers’ of men was a challenge,” said Kazuhiro Miyatake, 59, manager of an online parasol and umbrella shop in the Nishinari ward of Osaka city. “They are selling really well this year, probably due to extremely hot weather.”
Parasol sales in June and July at the men’s store of Isetan Shinjuku in Tokyo more than doubled from a year earlier, with foldable, all-weather parasols being especially popular. According to the store, many of the female customers are asked by their husbands to buy parasols for them.
“I’m guessing that the severe heatwave has removed men’s resistance to using parasols,” a store official said.
Miyatake hopes men will come to find enjoyment in an item that defends their health. “Parasols are portable shades. They can protect your life and be used as fashion items, too. I hope men will enjoy the pleasant experience of shielding themselves from the sun while walking.”