Japanese cities are learning that if you can’t stand the heat, might as well just compete. With temperatures rising to record levels the past few days, several cities across the country are taking it into stride and competing to be recognized as “the hottest place in Japan”. Currently, the official “winner” is Shimanto in Kochi Prefecture, which on Monday reached 41 degrees celsius, beating the six-year record of Kumagaya in Saitama Prefecture, and Tajimi in Gifu Prefecture at 40.9 degrees celsius.
So now the two cities, along with Tatebayashi, Gunma Prefecture, which came close to both records, are now marketing themselves as the “hottest place”, even if the real record isn’t theirs anymore. Officials, residents and even businesses are getting in on the competition and trying to take their minds away from the fact that the heatwave is really getting uncomfortable.
A local specialty store in Shimanto has already put up a sign with the tagline “the hottest in Japan”. But more than that, they’re offering shaved ice at a shaved price of ¥41, from the original ¥100 ($1), a bowl to match the temperature. Shizuka Takeuchi, 35, a member of the local chamber of commerce, says they’re taking advantage of their “notoriety” to advertise their city. Before being declared the hottest, the city’s Nishi-Tosa district was only known as the place where the clean waters of the Shimantogawa river runs through. So now, they are planning to produce t-shirts with the phrase “Atsuizo” (“It’s hot”) on them. But if this weather continues, the city’s actual specialty, ayu sweetfish, will be affected and the industry will suffer from low catches.
Previous record-holder Kumagaya meanwhile has created a yurukyara mascot named “Atsube”. The sun-shaped character shows how hard it is to beat the heat. Tajimi also has its own mascot, “Unagappa”, which is a hybrid of an eel and kappa, a mythical figure from Japanese folklore. The two cities have actually been competing in a “Facebook battle” since this July, by posting their highest daily temperatures and also their own respective local events. They’re planning to keep the battle going until September.