May 22, 2018

40 things to do in Japan in the summer

When I first arrived in Japan it was the height of summer. I will never ever forget stepping out of the coolly air-conditioned Narita airport into the fires of hell. Or at least that how it felt for this Goldilock’s (neither too hot or too cold) climatized Irish girl. Previously I wrote how like to escape the heat during the summer, but sometimes I force myself to embrace it so I can enjoy some of the summer only events in Japan. And Japan has lots of them.

Apart from the events that only happen in the summer there is also a selection of activities that are best enjoyed when the heat is on. Here is a choice of 40 things to enjoy in Japan in the summer:

Summer only events
40 things to do in Japan in the summer photo

1. Fireworks

2. Festivals

3. Tanabata

4. Yosakoi

5. Wind chimes

No matter where you are in Japan, you will find somewhere near you that has one if not all of these five summer events on offer. Bonus: most of these events are free to enjoy. Fireworks and festivals range greatly from small local ones to humongous events that attracts literally hundreds of thousands of people. Tanabata is often a low key affair at a local shrine, but you will also find a number of Tanabata festivals on offer. Likewise Yosakoi dance festivals or events are also often smaller and local, but still a lot of fun. Wind chimes have long been associated with summer in Japan, but the wind chime events and displays are more recent events. 

Summer Traditions
40 things to do in Japan in the summer photo
6. Suika-wari

7. Haunted House

8. Jimbei, Yukata and Uchiwa

9. Beer Garden

10. Catching bugs

Suika-wari is the tradition of splitting a watermelon with a stick while blindfolded. Haunted houses and scary stories are things Japanese people associate with summer, possibly due to Obon (like a festival of the dead) falling in August. Jimbei and Yukata are types of Japanese traditional summer clothing. Uchiwa are Japanese fans, and are a dime a dozen and a popular collectible among the expat community. They make a great souvenir too! There are different type of beer gardens, but the seasonal ones tend to be on the roofs of department stores. They tend to open mid June to early September. Children in Japan (and quite a few adults too) enjoy early morning expeditions to the nearest woods to try and find beetles and other summer insects.

40 things to do in Japan in the summer photo

11. Seasonal pools

12. Seaside

13. River play

14. Splash pools

15. Aquariums

These need no explanation, except maybe the first one. In Japan, they have summer seasonal pools that open from mid July to end of August only. They are often municipally run. Not every city has one, but there is usually a few in each prefecture. 

Food & Fruit Picking

40 things to do in Japan in the summer photo

16. Kakikori

17. Ice-cream

18. Nagashi somen

19. Melon and watermelon
20. Cherry picking

21. Blueberry picking
22. Grape picking

23. Pear picking

I am not a foodie so I have no doubt I am missing some key summer foods. Plus a great City-cost article by Yoko Lost in Japan already exists with more detailed information on how to cool your body temperature in the summer. As for fruit picking, this is something I really enjoy doing as do many Japanese people. Cherry picking is generally available for the month of June and early July depending on what part of Japan you are in. Just as that finishes blueberry farms open and stay open until mid to late August. Grape season typically starts in August with prime picking in September. And while pear picking is usually in the Autumn, there are a couple of pear picking farms that open in August.

40 things to do in Japan in the summer photo

24. Mountain drives

25. Cable cars 

26. Forest treks

27. Climb Mt Fuji

28. Fireflies

29. Seasonal flowers

Mountain drives, rides on cable cars and forest treks offer some relief from the insistent heat. Mt Fuji is open for climbing season from mid July to mid September. Fireflies share the brilliant glow for only a couple of weeks a year; generally the last week in June to the first week in July. Seasonal flowers such as hydrangeas in early summer and sunflowers mid to late summer offer additional bursts of glory. 

Activities particularly enjoyable in summer

40 things to do in Japan in the summer photo

30. Paragliding 

31. Parachuting

32. Bungee jumping

33. River rafting

34. Treetop adventure

35. Camping

36. Barbecue

37. Hot Air Balloon

38. Fishing

39. Diving

40. Music Festivals

There are certainly more great summer activities, but this is just a small selection of ones I am most familiar with. I personally recommend camping as a "must do" experience to try in Japan. 

What else would you add to this list of things to do in Japan in the summer? For those who are here; what is your favourite summer only activity or event in Japan? For those who are about to experience your first summer here; what are you most looking forward to?

Whatever you do this summer, I hope it is a great one!



Level 8 LocalGuide with Google. Blogging about life in Japan as an Irish WAHM to 4 kids on insaitama.com.