Air Conditioners In Japan: On Trial

Japanese Air Conditioner

Conventional wisdom held by Japanese old ladies is that the air conditioner is a Faustian deal trading comfort for disease, an option of last resort, absolutely never to be used save in life-threatening situations.

“Today, it was so hot I just had to use my air conditioner,” has been a common statement from the little old ladies I know.

At first I thought it was something Japanese, some esoteric facet of  Japanese culture I had yet to discover. And it is…but only a subculture to which only little old ladies belong. They hate air conditioning.

Me, I couldn’t last the Japanese summers without it–especially in Yamanashi, which held the record for highest temperature in Japan for three days straight–so I don’t quite understand their contempt for the happy, hard-working little unit whose job it is to keep you cool.

I just didn’t get it, so I asked. And five little old ladies and I put the AC on trial to see if it really was poisoning the lives of those it served.

Defendant: Air Conditioning

Defendant’s lawyer: Me

Prosecution: Five Japanese old ladies

The trial proceeded over the course of several days, each member of the prosecution proposing different arguments in turn. Here is a record of proceedings.

Opening statements:

“Why don’t you like the air conditioner? I use it everyday.”

“It makes me sick.”


“I was so hot yesterday I had to use it. Now today my legs feel heavy and I didn’t want to get out of bed this morning. I’m sick, because of the air conditioner.”

“I never want to get out of bed in the morning. You look fine.”

“I have no energy.”

“How did you come here today?”

“I rode my bike, but it’s 37 degrees and it takes fifteen minutes, so it was really hard.”

“You must be tired.”

“Yes, because of the air conditioner.”

Case 2:

“It dries out my skin.”

“Your skin looks fine to me.”

The prosecution rubs her face. “No, no. It’s horrible today. So dry!

“But your sweating.”

“That’s because it’s hot!”

“Um, maybe your skin is drier when you use the air conditioner because you don’t sweat.”

“I like sweating. It’s good for you.”

Case 3:

“I like sweating.”

(Recorder’s note: this is a different person, I promise. She just said the same thing.)

“I don’t. I thought women didn’t either.”

“It’s okay, because I’m old and don’t care what I look like anymore.”

“So you like to sweat?”

“Yes. It makes me feel like I’ve exercised.”

“You like exercise?”

“I hate exercise. But sweating makes me feel like I’m losing weight.”

“I thought you didn’t care how you looked.”

“I’m still a woman.”

“Fair enough.”

Case 4:

“You use the air conditioner everyday? Are you okay?”

The defendant’s lawyer blinks profusely. “Why wouldn’t I be?”

“It’s bad for you, you know?”

“No, I don’t know.”

“It is. It’s bad for your respiratory system.”

“I feel fine.”

“You’re still young, so it’s okay. When I use the air conditioner, it hurts my throat.”

“It gives you a sore throat?”


“You know, speaking of health, there have been a few deaths due to the heat recently. All of them seniors. You should be careful.”

“It’s okay. I like the heat.”

Case 5:

“I like the heat.”

(Recorder’s note: again, same argument, different old lady.)

“I don’t.”

“Sweating is good for you.”

“I sweat when I go outside. That’s enough.”

“I only use the air conditioner once or twice a year, when it gets too hot.”

“I thought you liked the heat.”

“Not that hot!”

“Okay, so you just sit around and sweat all day?”

“No, of course not. I use fans. I have a lot.”

“I thought you liked the heat.”

“Well, maybe not that much.”

Verdict: the jury is hung. The defendant walks.

As things stand, Japanese old lady wisdom is not enough to convince me of the dangers of air conditioning. I’m still using it. I’m using it right now. And I will keep using it until the day I die. Which according to them, it will cause. Who knows? You think heaven has air conditioning?

Question of the Day: Are you pro or anti AC? What do you think?

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19 Comments on “Air Conditioners In Japan: On Trial”

  1. samokan
    July 22, 2013 at 5:32 am #

    HAHAHA.. I don’t use too cause it really makes me sick and then there is the electric bill too.

    • introvertnathan
      July 22, 2013 at 9:40 am #

      Wow, I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t sleep at night without mine : )

      • samokan
        July 22, 2013 at 9:47 am #

        I guess growing up in a tropical country is one of the factor and I do have a ceiling fan in my living room so it helps circulate the air and of course a really cold shower before going to bed.

      • introvertnathan
        July 22, 2013 at 10:24 am #

        Ah, yeah. My hometown had hot, drier summers, so I’m not used to Japan’s intolerably hot and humid weather. And Yamanashi is particularly bad too. It’s second only to Kyoto in terms of bad summers!

      • samokan
        July 22, 2013 at 11:19 am #

        I have been in Yamanashi, actually in Isawaonsen during summer and it was not that bad although we went to the mountain to do some archery, so I guess it does not count.

        I try to stay away from central Kyoto during summer , although the northern part is actually pretty nice.

        Osaka is also pretty humid but thanks to the underground it’s bearable when you are trying to get somewhere.

  2. kyamee
    July 22, 2013 at 6:09 am #

    I’m absolutely PRO everything the AC unit does. Gifu is way too hot and way too cold not to use it. I used it all winter and all summer. In the winter, I kept it around 20/22 and in the summer, 27/28, and my bills were actually pretty low. I don’t believe any the sick stuff. I’ve never had a single problem XD

    • introvertnathan
      July 22, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      I’m with you in that! summer and winter, my aircon stays on!

  3. savannaisweird
    July 22, 2013 at 8:25 am #

    I found that too when I was in Japan. Since I went during summer, it was super humid as you would know, and being from Australia, I’m used to drier heat. I kept wishing that someone would turn the AC on, but hardly anyone did. Made me glad that one of my homestay sisters had an aircon in the room I was sleeping in. :3

    • introvertnathan
      July 22, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      Yeah, a lot of businesses make it a rule to keep the AC at 28 all summer. And then require you to wear a suit…I swear like a pig in summer!

      • savannaisweird
        July 22, 2013 at 11:01 am #

        I always wondered how all the Japanese men survived in their suits walking around Tokyo! How is that even humanly possible?!

  4. i*Kan
    July 22, 2013 at 8:52 am #

    Haha! Really enjoyed this post. Loved the conversation with prosecution witness #3.

    • introvertnathan
      July 22, 2013 at 9:43 am #

      Thanks : )
      I always have fun chatting with my old ladies.

  5. Kainoa
    July 22, 2013 at 9:24 am #

    I was just in Yurihama and the AC was always on in my room. My throat did get a little scratchy, but I appreciated being kept cool. Everywhere else was warm. Not uncomfortable, but I did “glisten”. The foot baths and onsen, on the other hand, were very hot and needed getting used to, but once acclimated, I didn’t mind sweating. That’s why they sell fans. 😉

  6. Artemis
    July 22, 2013 at 9:25 am #

    Ain’t nobody prising me from my aircon – not even little old Japanese ladies, who are a law unto themselves. I don’t know if excessive use of the aircon is good for you, but I know I’d probably die at night if I didn’t use it, so…

    • introvertnathan
      July 22, 2013 at 9:46 am #

      Same here. I couldn’t survive without it, and certainly couldn’t sleep!

  7. Veronica
    July 22, 2013 at 12:49 pm #

    Japan summers can’t be worse than Hong Kong…

  8. Scottinfukie
    June 12, 2016 at 4:55 pm #

    If there were no air conditioning I would immediately move back to California. Japan between June and September is intolerable without it, particularly when sleeping.

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