SAITAMA – Parasols — accessories normally associated with women trying to protect their skin from the sun — are proving increasingly popular with men as the nation grapples with one of its hottest summers ever.
Parasols have been attracting attention in recent years, but this summer sales of models targeted at men have grown rapidly amid the scorching heat, store officials say.
“I think the extreme heat is winning out over men’s embarrassment,” said a person in the parasol industry.
Last year, the Saitama Prefectural Government launched a group to promote the use of parasols by men. The members use parasols on their commutes and during other activities as well.
The prefecture encompasses Kumagaya, a city that records some of the hottest temperatures in the country. Kumagaya shattered the national record for highest temperature on July 23 with a reading of 41.1.
“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 that is close to becoming a buzzword this year. He said that since he started using one, “a pleasant world has opened up for me.”
“I would also recommend it for protecting children from heatstroke,” said Takeshi Okumura, 35, a member of the Saitama group who has been using parasols for three years.
The promotion of men’s parasols is not new in Japan.
The Environment Ministry released the results of a study in 2011 that showed that combining parasol use with the government’s Cool-Biz campaign could reduce heat stress by about 20 percent. But it also said it would be necessary to promote the idea to men.
In 2013 higasa danshi was nominated buzzword of the year as parasol use by men started being accepted.
“While the number of users was gradually increasing, removing the ‘psychological barriers’ for men was a challenge,” Kazuhiro Miyatake, 59, manager of an parasol and umbrella shop in Osaka’s Nishinari Ward, said.
“They are selling really well this year, probably due to extremely hot weather,” Miyatake said.
At the men’s branch of Isetan’s flagship department store in Shinjuku Ward, Tokyo, parasol sales have more than doubled in June and July compared with a year earlier, with foldable, all-weather types especially popular. According to the store, many of the female customers said they are being asked to buy parasols by their husbands.
“I’m guessing that the severe heat wave has removed men’s resistance to using parasols,” a store official said.
“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,” Miyatake said.