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Men in Japan urged to use parasols alongside women to prevent heatstroke

Tourists use sun umbrellas in the scorching summer heat, in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward, in this June 18, 2016, file photo. (Mainichi/Kimi Takeuchi)

TOKYO -- Environment Minister Yoshiaki Harada on May 21 urged both men and women to make use of sun umbrellas this summer to prevent heatstroke amid predictions of extreme heat.

Speaking in a news conference after a Cabinet meeting, the minister acknowledged that the use of parasols is not common among men. A ministry representative, however, stated, "The term 'higasa danshi' (sun umbrella men), which refers to young fashionable people who use sun umbrellas, is becoming an established term."

A record-high of about 95,000 people were taken to hospitals due to heatstroke between May and September last year as temperatures soared to their highest recorded levels. This was around 42,000 more people than during the previous year.

As heatstroke prevention has emerged as a pressing issue amid continuing global warming, the ministry focused on parasols as familiar items for the public.

The heat stress index, also called the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT), is an empirical index representing the heat stress an individual is exposed to. When using a sun umbrella, this temperature can drop by up to 3 degrees, according to the ministry. Furthermore, the amount of sweat is reduced by some 20% compared to using a hat, since parasols can block more solar radiation.

Upon request from the ministry, department stores across Japan will display illustrations depicting people using sun umbrellas and information on their effectiveness in preventing heatstroke, in places including special sections set up to sell the items, from late May.

"We aim to promote widespread use of parasols, regardless of sex," a ministry representative said.

(Japanese original by Toshiyuki Suzuki, Science & Environment News Department)

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