Real-time shade information added to walking app from Navitime Japan

One of the many reasons that people hate summer in Japan is that there’s very little relief from the relentless sun. Walking down most streets in even moderately urban areas, you’ll find little in the way of shelter from the scorching sun.

It certainly pays to know when and where shade will occur at any given moment while trekking out in the streets of Japan, and Navitime Japan has given us a great tool to do that. Navitime Japan is the maker of a variety of navigation apps and services that help you catch trains on time or plot driving routes all over the country. The shade finder can be found in their fitness app that tracks walking called Alkoo, based on aruku the Japanese word for “walk.”

The way it works is ridiculously simple. Just load up the map of the area that you’re going to walk in and then tap the “Shade” (日陰) button and instantly the locations where shadows will fall are shown on the map.

It was an easy feature to implement as well since the building height information was already included in the map data. All Navitime Japan had to do was add in the position of the sun at any given time and calculate where the sunlight won’t hit.

Ingeniously simple and desperately needed this season, people have been flocking to Alkoo, which has seen its number of users triple since the feature was added at the end of July. Online comments were generally optimistic about the development, while also realizing that it’ll take more than that alone to overcome the sheer force of summer in Japan.

“Now I can live hidden in darkness.”

“Parasols are convenient too.”

“I like to take a walk after meals, but after lunch, it’s too hard.”

“This sounds pretty shady.”

“Just use a parasol and you can walk anywhere.”

“It’s so humid that even in the shadows, it’s hot.”

“This is good because my eyes hurt from the glare off the road after a while.”

“Even when it’s 32 degrees (90 degrees Fahrenheit), it’s ridiculously hot.”

The shade function is not without its shortcomings, however. Not all building heights appear to be included in the map data, so results may vary depending on how highly developed the area you’re walking in is. It also doesn’t show shadows cast by non-building structures like elevated train lines and doesn’t take into account covered walkways like shopping streets, which would appear as open to direct sunlight on the maps.

Still, it’s so easy and fast to use, this feature of Alkoo is a pretty great tool for those looking for the best way to sneak some exercise in or just make it to the 7-Eleven for some mint chocolate ice cream in this deadly heat. The app’s available for both iOS and Android, so check it out and you’ll have it made in the shade.