Think Japan, and you invariably think of springtime with its gorgeous cherry blossoms, or autumn, when the colours of the fall dress the country in spectacular shades. But summer in Japan offers equally enjoyable experiences – despite the heat and the relentless humidity – to make every moment extraordinary. So grab yourselves a fan and come see why summer could be the perfect time to visit.
Japan is the land of myriad festivals (matsuri), but the biggest ones occur during the summer, with colourful floats, dazzling fireworks, traditional garb and an abundance of street food.
Some unforgettable sights during summer in Japan include the floating lanterns that guide the spirits back to their realm during the Obon in mid-August, the towering, illuminated lantern floats of the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, and the month-long Gion Matsuri in Kyoto, where enormous floats march in a colourful procession in July. The spectacular fireworks display during Tenjin Matsuri and those lighting up the torii gate at Miyajima Island make for amazing memories! Japan’s largest dance festival, the Tokushima Awa Odori in August will have you swinging to the beat of folk music. But these are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg, and you’ll discover so much more as you set foot on Japan’s festive shores.
While domestic tourism is huge during summer in Japan, summer does see comparatively fewer crowds than spring and fall, so there will be less hustle and bustle. Of course, be warned that this won’t apply to the beaches! You’ll also find good off-season rates during travel, so make the most of this happy fact!
Go to the higher elevations to put some distance between you and the heat and humidity. Hiking and trekking are especially enjoyable on the picturesque Japanese Alps, the Kamikōchi highlands, the mountains of the Kii Peninsula and even the iconic Mount Fuji. While Mount Fuji might seem like a tough nut to crack, it’s definitely doable and you’ll be treated to some stunning views along the way. If you’re a photography enthusiast, this is where you should be.
Visit the Okinawan Peninsula for some truly fascinating beaches and excellent scuba-diving opportunities. The water is clear, affording great underwater views. You’ll also swim amidst intricate coral reefs, with hammerhead sharks, manta rays and sea turtles. To satiate the adventurer in you, dive off the coast of Yonaguni to discover strange underwater rock formations there.
Summer on a Plate
While any time of year will fetch you amazing Japanese fare, there’s something about the summer festivals that present excellent opportunities for gluttony. You’ll find yaki in various forms at festivals – Yakitori, or grilled chicken skewers, Okonomiyaki or fried savoury pancakes, Takoyaki, or fried octopus, and Ika-yaki or grilled, skewered squid. Cool off with some kakigōri, a bowl of ice shavings flavoured with sweet syrup, ice cream, fruit or condensed milk.
The cold noodle dish with dipping sauce is particularly refreshing. But nothing compares to the quirky ice cream flavours that tease and tempt – like matcha, green tea, beni-imo or Okinawan sweet potato, and kuro goma or black sesame.
These are Japan’s summer staple, welcoming crowds with the promise of ‘all you can drink and eat’ with beer, barbeque and buffets. Located on the rooftops of major departmental stores or hotels and gardens, beer gardens feature prominently from late May to early September.
While Japan is undoubtedly the king of vending machines, in summer, it really steps up its appeal with fascinating offerings that refresh and amuse all at once! Choose from pancake flavoured milkshake, jasmine tea, beer, wine, iced coffee and even flavoured fizzy jelly!
So visit Japan in summer, and you’ll have enough on your agenda to make your trip completely enjoyable.