The sound of loud semi bugs, chilled ramune drinks, and cold noodles. If you have yet to experience what summer is like in Japan, you will be surprised to find out that it may be very different from your country. From June to August, there are various types of traditions, events, and foods that are unique to Japan. From the scorching heat to delicious fruits to lively festivals, summer in Japan is never a boring time. Even for those with a university student’s budget, there are many options to enjoy the season!
This article is a part of our extensive series of guides on Japanese culture.
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How do I stay cool during the summer in Japan?
Japanese summers are notorious for being extremely hot and humid. Before you have fun with your friends, it’s good to know what’s in store for you.
Hottest Days, Temperature, and Humidity
Other than the northern regions, the hottest months are July and August where Tokyo can reach over 95 degrees Fahrenheit or 35 degrees celsius. At the same time, humidity can be 78-85%. Phew! Also, June through early July in Japan is called 梅雨・tsuyu, which is the rainy season. During this time, there is perpetual rain and sometimes typhoons. Through 梅雨 in Tokyo, the standard daytime temperature is around 20-26℃, or 68-78.8℉. However, it is a beautiful sight to see the hydrangeas bloom due to the precipitation.
If you want to know more about the weather and what to expect, see this article 18 Things to Know About Japan in Summer 2021: Weather, What to Do & More!
A common condition that occurs in this type of warmth is heatstroke. This happens when the body cannot control its temperature and the body temperature increases quickly, and the body cannot cool itself down. It’s important to look after yourself by staying hydrated and finding methods to keep cool.
Inventions made specifically for the Japanese heat
If you’re feeling worried about whether you can withstand the heat, don’t worry. The Japanese have invented many different types of genius products to help you with this exact type of weather. These are also easy to access and most of these can be found at your local conbini or drugstore.
- Cooling Sprays/Lotions/Wipes
There are so many varieties of this type of product but the premise is the same. Just wipe the sections of your body that feel sticky or sweaty and you'll feel the difference immediately. Sprays will cool down the area.
2. Airism clothing
Airism is a popular quick-drying, moisture-wicking, sweat-absorbing, heat-releasing type
of clothing wear that is made by Uniqlo, but there are many other clothing options by other brands out there for cooling.
3. Portable fans
Compact and good for on the go for a nice breeze.
4. UV Protection
Protecting your skin from those harmful UV rays should be at the top of your summer purchase list. Most sunscreens in Japan are 50+.
There are umbrellas made specifically to block out UV rays and they make a big difference when you're outside. The shade will significantly make the sun more bearable.
6. Cooling Headbands
Just drench the cloth in water and the gel inside will become cool. Then you can then put it around your neck or head to keep you cool for most of the day.
7. Sweat absorbing accessories
There are mini towels, armbands, and even armpit sweat-absorbing pads.
To learn more about heat fighting products, check out this article, Keep Cool in Summer With These Ingenious Japanese Inventions.
Is summer a good time to go to Japan?
Though it may seem like being in Japan during the summer would be difficult due to the climate, it’s actually a favorable time to go out and adventure, especially if you’re on summer break. For those who like nature expeditions such as hiking, you will see a lot of people hitting the mountains for a climb. In August, many Japanese people go back to their hometowns for the Obon public holiday week so bigger cities will become a little quieter and less crowded. Early summer is thought to be the off-season for domestic travel and going out just at the beginning of June could mean warm but not too hot days. There are lots of resorts and bars opened by the beach. In spite of its reputation, summer is a good season to be in Japan. If you can handle a little bit of humidity and heat, with all the local events, it is possibly the time when the core of traditional Japan is felt most powerfully.
What are fun things I can do during summer in Japan?
Note: Due to COVID-19 some events may have been postponed or canceled for summer this year.
If you are in Japan for the summer, you can’t get with not going to a summer festival or 夏祭り・Natsu matsuri. They are everywhere! The reason for that is because it is a fun way to spend time with friends and family and even dress up. People often wear traditional Japanese garments called 浴衣・yukata that display various types of summer motifs. (Get to know more about this attire here, Yukata vs Kimono). It takes place outdoors and there are food stands and little games that can be played.
Here are some of the most famous 夏祭り:
- Kyoto’s Gion Matsuri
- One of the most famous and largest festivals in Japan. Takes place during July in Kyoto. Originally from the Shinto faith, this celebration was meant for purifying and pacifying diseases.
- Osaka’s Tenjin Matsuri
- One of the top 3 festivals. July 24 and 25. This is the festival of the Tenmangu Shrine. There is a land and river parade with fireworks.
- Aomori’s Nebuta Matsuri
- Takes place in Aomori during early August. There are 3 types of floats used. Nebuta is huge lantern bodies of warriors and demons.
- Awa Odori festival in Tokushima, on the island of Shikoku
- During August 12-15. Obon festival in Tokushima Prefecture. This is the largest dance festival in the country.
See this Ultimate Guide to Summer Festival in Japan to learn more!
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There’s nothing more satisfying than to pick your own fruit, like grapes or apples, and eat it fresh. This is a common activity for couples and families. In the summer season, it’s popular to go away from the city to more of the countryside or 田舎・Inaka near farms to look for fruit. Nothing like enjoying the fruits of labor, literally.
Camping in nature is a good way to get a break from city life and appreciate the abundance of green that mother nature has to offer. If you’re thinking that camping and laying on the ground rolling in dirt isn’t really your style, especially when you have a comfy bed at home, worry not! Although camping has been around for ages, in recent years, glamping (glamorous camping) has become a favored activity. These are usually in scenic spots such as the mountainside or in the forests with stylish and big tents. They come with lots of amenities to ensure that you can have a comfortable stay while you still enjoy the environment.
Going hand in hand with camping, barbecuing is a nice way to step out of your element and try something new. You can find families down by the river roasting meats and veggies on a grill or open fire. Why not try your hand at it?
See more things to do during the summer, Summer In Japan - 20 Fun Things To Do To Beat The Heat
What are the most instagrammable summer spots in Tokyo?
Looking to upgrade your Instagram feed? Even though almost any street you go down could potentially be a fun picture, here are some of the most instagrammable places that can be found in Tokyo. If you’re mainly based in Tokyo, learn more about it here, Ultimate Guide to Life in Tokyo
- Meiji Shrine
Located near Harajuku station, this location boasts a large 鳥居・torii (a traditional
Japanese gate typically found at the entrance of a Shinto shrine) and during the summer is surrounded by lush greenery that is a perfect location to snap a picture in front of, especially during sunset. Not to mention, nearby is the famous Takeshita street of Harajuku that’s well known for unique, youthful shops selling colorful and crazy clothes and foods that are sure to make good shots.
- Todoroki Valley
Tucked away in the southwest of central Tokyo is a ravine park brimming with natural beauty and red bridges. There is also a river that you can walk across, and temples as well. There is no admission fee. Nature lovers, be sure not to miss it!
- Hie Shrine
If you don’t have the chance to visit fushimi inari in Kyoto, this is a good replacement.
One of the entrances is lined with 90 bright red torii gates that form a tunnel-like path
and show up beautifully in photos.
- Yanaka Ginza
An old fashioned shopping street since the 1950s with around 60 stores & restaurants to
get your purchases and photographs done at the same time.
Probably the easiest to find and get Instagram-worthy shots in is at themed cafes or restaurants. There are so many new ones popping in and out there are always bound to be options for photos. Some popular ones are Moomin bakery & cafe, 2D cafe, Vampire cafe, and Alice in Wonderland restaurant. (Some are seasonal and only open for a limited time so watch out for that!)
Find out more places to get the best pictures, 12 of the Most Instagrammable Places in Tokyo
What are some less-touristy places I can visit in summer?
If you’re tired of hearing about the same old locations to check out in Japan *cough* Tokyo tower *cough* Shibuya crossing. You want to know more about the less touristy spots that are off the beaten path. Here are some underrated spots that deserve more recognition. You can enjoy these spots while they’re still lowkey and less crowded.
Most people when they visit Japan only really go to Tokyo and Kyoto but they’re totally missing out on this gem of a prefecture. It’s known for its food, nature, and onsen. It’s also the origin of shochu, the most famous distilled liquor in Japan. The largest city in Kyushu is Fukuoka, a large city with warm people, fair weather, a spirited art scene, and fantastic cuisine. Kagoshima houses Sakurajima, an active volcano, and is well known for the island of Yakushima, home to Japan's oldest living trees.
Though most commonly associated with being popular during the winter months, the summers are actually a great destination. Seafood and dairy are what it’s known for. Perfect for those that want lots of space in nature to explore. Hokkaido has a considerably more pleasant summer, with the month of August’s average highest temperature a simple 26° C or 80°F.
- Gotokuji Temple
This temple has an alarming amount of maneki-neko or luck inviting cat figurines.
- Tsukiji Honganji Temple
Unlike the Tsukiji Fish Market, a popular destination for Tokyo visitors, this building does not get much attention. It is a big temple located nearby. It is a Jodo Shinshu Buddhism temple with a different look unlike any of the other temples in Japan because it was built drawing inspiration from ancient Indian architecture.
Rapidly gaining attraction, this area is known for its vintage stores and being an artsy neighborhood. This is where you can get creative.
- Mount Takao
A.K.A. Takao-san. This mountain is one of the nearest nature relaxation areas to central Tokyo, it has beautiful views, a temple, and a welcoming hiking opportunity.
- Izu Islands
These are pacific islands, a part of the Tokyo metropolis. Why go to Okinawa when you
have it at your doorstep?
Here are more hidden gems, Japan’s Best Off-The-Beaten-Path Places
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Can I go to onsen in summer in Japan?
Even though when you think of 温泉・Onsen (hot springs) you might think of going during the winter and snowy seasons to warm up. You would be surprised to know that going to an onsen is actually quite common in the summer as well. Even on a hot day, the hot water will make you feel refreshed because after getting out, the summer heat will feel cooler than before. It’s like having hot drinks or going to the sauna. Some may even prefer to go during the summers because half the experience of the onsen is the scenery that is around the resort. If you go during the summer, all the plants and flowers will be thriving instead of during the winter when the leaves have already fallen off.
If you prefer private onsens, read our Ultimate Guide to Japanese Private Onsens
What delicious summer foods should I try?
There is so much food you should be trying during summer in Japan.
As mentioned earlier, some of these fruits you can find on a fruit farm and you can pick them yourself.
If you don’t feel like doing the labor for fruit, they can be found in almost any supermarket. The prices can vary. It is a tradition to gift fruit so the grand fruits can become pretty pricey. There are different classes of them depending on taste, presentation, and brand. If you’re not too fussy about that, you can find fruits at lower prices.
Eating sōmen (a cold, very thin noodle) is a staple for summer in Japan. Moreover, Nagashisōmen is the best way to enjoy it during the summer. This is a way of eating somen, to catch and eat the somen noodles from cold running water, usually in a bamboo shoot. Often enjoyed with a light dipping sauce called つゆ・ tsuyu.
かき氷・Kakigori or Shaved ice is the perfect dessert on a hot day. Comes with many types of sweeteners and syrup.
Both tourists and office workers gather on rooftops or restaurants to enjoy summer nights in gardens drinking beer. The season usually runs from Mid-May to the end of September.
Another summer noodle. This is a Chinese-style noodle but a Japanese plate with chilled ramen noodles with different toppings served in the summer.
鰻・Unagi (freshwater eel) It’s a summer power food. Best eaten on top of rice. Eating Japanese eel during the summer has been a tradition for centuries now and there is even a day for it.
A little strange looking and the texture may be off-putting to some. Tokoroten is food in Japanese cuisine made from agarophytes. It has been eaten by the Japanese for a long long time.
There are many dishes containing tofu during the summer in Japan. For example, Hiyayakko (Japanese Chilled Tofu). It is usually served as a side dish or appetizer. It helps cool the body from heat.
There’s more to try, see this article for more on Eating with the Season: 12 Japanese Summer Foods to Try.
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Where can I enjoy summer in Japan on a budget?
Though many people may have a preconceived notion that to have fun in Japan, you need a lot of money, there are surprisingly many ways to entertain yourself without breaking the bank. On a tight budget? If you’re looking to save some yen, these are ways you can use to have just as interesting a summer.
Going to the beach is a must if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and want to cool down by the breezy ocean, better yet, the beach is free to enter. Though there will most likely be a lot of others with the same idea down at the shores, nevertheless the opportunity shouldn't be missed. The top beaches nearest to Tokyo are in Zushi, Enoshima, and Kamakura.
Most well-liked by the younger crowd, music festivals are a great way to spend the summer. The two biggest summer music festivals in Japan are Summer Sonic and Fuji Rock. These events even feature many foreign artists from the U.S. and Britain. If you can’t afford the steep prices for the tickets, a way to still get in and enjoy the music is to volunteer at the venues. The stay is typically subsidized and you can also keep the land clean while meeting new people.
Museums are a good way to stay cool indoors and also refine your artistic sense. Better yet, there are numerous exhibits that have free admission.
- Meguro Parasitological Museum (world’s only parasite museum).
- Ikebukuro Bosaikan (disaster prevention museum that has a room-sized earthquake simulator).
- Fujifilm Square (old-school cameras and photography)
- Suginami Animation Museum (the region where much of Japan’s early anime industry was located).
- The National Art Center
Gardens and Parks
What’s better than having a picnic at the park? Find yourself some shade and lay out a leisure sheet with some food and drinks to have a relaxing afternoon.
Otherwise, taking a stroll through nature isn’t a bad way to spend your weekend.
- Imperial Palace
- Yoyogi Park
- Higo Hosokawa Garden (the gardens of a lord from the Edo period)
- Hotels - Most hotels don’t mind if you wander their polished gardens or lobbies.
See all the free or very inexpensive activities you can enjoy 101 Cheap and Free Things to Do in Tokyo.
Temples and Shrines
Most temples and shrines don’t require an admission fee and there are many that you will run into when in Japan. They range from big and small and can be found in almost every city. Even without going to the most famous ones, you are bound to enjoy experiencing local ones. Temples are Buddhist, while the shrines are Shintoist. Typically, temples have big incense burners with a lot of Buddhist figures, some also have cemeteries attached. On the other hand, Shinto shrines display a big, usually red, torii, a sacred gate, at the entrance.
There are about 100,000 Shinto shrines and 80,000 Buddhist temples spread around Japan where many Japanese locals go to stop by and pray. These spaces are sacred and holy, so it is important to be respectful, but don’t worry anyone can enter regardless of religion.
If you want to know all about this in depth, check out Ultimate Guide to Shrines and Temples in Tokyo.
There are endless ways to enjoy your summer in Japan, don’t be afraid to venture out of these options as well! If you want to know more about seasons in Japan, don’t forget to read this article, Seasons in Japan. There is always something new and exciting happening around here. Try new foods and go to all the events being held during the summer break. Be sure to watch out for heatstroke.
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