August in Japan is hot, hot, hot - but don’t let the heat put you off, as it’s also one of the most beautiful, spectacular, and fun times of year to visit.
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Japan’s summer reaches its peak in August, with high temperatures across the country. While the heat and humidity may not be for everyone, sun worshippers will love the golden rays and beautiful weather. August is also packed with festivals, fireworks, flower gazing, and much more, and is the perfect time for fun summer activities, from exploring cool shady forests and tranquil lakes to drinking a cold beer in the sunshine. You’ll also have a chance to see some of Japan’s biggest summer events in August, such as the Obon Festival, Aomori Nebuta, and Awa Odori. We’ll take you on a tour of the best things to do in Japan in August and how to get there with the JR Pass.
Japan in August
While August is hot and humid, reaching temperatures of around 80-90 degrees Fahrenheit (26-36 Celsius), it is also the end of the summer. As a result, temperatures are generally a little lower than in July. It’s also typically less rainy than June or July too. Thanks to this, August is a very popular time to visit, and the country can be quite busy, as it’s the height of the summer holiday season. Summer in Japan is known for festivals, fireworks, flowers, and fun! You’ll find all of this and more if you visit in August.
As with all of Japan’s weather and seasons, temperatures vary across the country, from the subtropical south to the milder north. Your choice of destination may be guided by how much you love the summer sun. If you’re a sun worshipper then you may want to head for Okinawa’s white sand beaches, diving spots, and water sports, but if you overheat easily then you might prefer the cooler climes of Japan’s northernmost island Hokkaido and its beautiful forests, lakes, and flower fields.
Of course, with a Japan Rail Pass - one ticket for unlimited travel on Japan’s world-leading rail network - you can experience both! Your JR Pass can take you right around this beautiful country and back again. Wherever you go, make sure you dress appropriately, pack sun cream, and stay hydrated too. We would also recommend investing in a Pocket Wifi device for unlimited internet wherever you go on up to 10 devices, so you can keep up to date with weather forecasts.
Top 10 Things To Do in Japan in August
August is a great time to visit Japan with a huge amount to see and do. Here’s our top ten recommendations for the month of August.
The Obon festival, also sometimes known as ‘Bon’ is a traditional Buddhist holiday celebrated in Japan as well as in much of East Asia. The holiday consists of a three-day festival that honours ancestral spirits and pays respect to the dead. While the dates can vary across Japan, in 2021, Obon will take place from between 7th August and 16th August. The busiest days will be the 1st day of Obon (8th Aug) and the following weekend, the 12th and 16th of August, followed by the last two days of Obon (15th & 16th Aug) when people will be returning home. Obon takes place in many different locations in Japan. Popular destinations to visit during Obon include Kyoto, Gujo, and Hokkaido, all of which can be accessed using the JRailPass. Obon represents a great opportunity for photography, celebration, and cultural immersion during your August visit to Japan. Find out more in our guide to Obon: Celebrating Japan’s Spirits.
2.) Mountain Day
The 11th of August is officially ‘Mountain Day’ in Japan, a relatively new holiday that was introduced in 2016 to encourage people to celebrate and enjoy the country’s mountains. Of course, the most famous of these is Mt. Fuji and August is one of the most popular times to climb and hike the mountain. There are four routes up the 3,776 metre tall Mount Fuji which vary by difficulty. The official season for the Yoshida Trail lasts until September, so August is a key month. Our guide to Climbing and Hiking Mt. Fuji has more detailed information.
3.) Japanese Lakes
Naturally, in the hot summer months, it’s great to cool off in the water. While Japan’s beaches are a hidden gem, it also has an abundance of beautiful lakes. If you’re planning an August visit to Mt. Fuji for instance, then you’ll be spoilt for choice with the stunning Fuji Five Lakes. These Five Lakes are Lake Kawaguchi, Lake Yamanaka, Lake Motosu, Lake Saiko and Lake Shoji. Lake Yamanaka is the largest of the five lakes and sits off on its own a little to the east of Mount Fuji. However, it’s Lake Kawaguchi that is the most popular of the lakes because it enjoys the best views of the mountain and is the easiest to reach. Read our guide to Exploring the Fuji Five Lakes for more.
4.) Visit Hiroshima
Hiroshima is a fascinating place to visit all year round, but August has a special significance as it sees the anniversary of the atomic bomb being dropped on the city on 6th August 1945. Today, you can visit the Hiroshima Memorial Peace Park to learn more about this momentous event. Several structures in the park are the remains of buildings that weren’t wholly destroyed by the bomb, while others have since been added to help remember the dead and share the dream of peace. The Peace Park was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996 due to its great historical and cultural importance. Alongside the memorial peace park, Hiroshima itself is a great place to visit. It’s the location of one of Japan’s most iconic symbols - the famous floating torii-gate of Miyajima, and there are several good day trips from Hiroshima, including to Tomonoura, the town that inspired the Ghibli film Ponyo on the Cliffs. Read our guide to Hiroshima and the JR Pass for everything you need to know.
5.) Explore the Japanese Alps
August is a perfect time to explore the great outdoors. Japan has an incredibly diverse, rugged, and beautiful landscape, including more than 30 incredible National Parks, so there’s a huge list of potential places to recommend for outdoor adventures in the fresh air. For this list, we’ve picked out the Japanese Alps and Kamikochi in particular. High in the Japanese Alps, Kamikochi is a mountain destination that delights visitors with vistas, hiking and gorgeous foliage. It’s open from April to November, and August is an excellent time to visit. The main draw for visitors to Kamikochi are the main hiking, trekking and mountaineering routes that lead from here into the Alps. Throughout the mountains there are a wide range of routes that vary in difficulty and duration, meaning there are hikes and walks that suit all manner of visitors. If you’re not up for a big hike, then many just do the gentle walk that goes from Taisho Pond to Myojin Bridge along the Azusa River. This walk is primarily over flat terrain and only takes a few hours. The fresh alpine air is ideal for cooling down during an August visit to Japan.
6.) Head to Hokkaido
Japan’s northernmost island is cooler all year round than the rest of Japan. It’s the ideal destination for those who struggle in high temperatures thanks to its mild outdoor summer weather, and it has a huge amount to offer visitors too. Our Hokkaido Five Days Itinerary has been designed to include a wide variety of highlights, including the lively city life of Sapporo, the fish markets of Hakodate, zoological garden of Asahikawa and finally a moment to unwind in the volcanic onsen of Noboribetsu. Hokkaido can be reached directly by rail from Tokyo, a one way trip takes roughly four hours using the Hokkaido Shinkansen. The trip is fully covered by the JR Pass.
7.) Sapporo Beer Festival
Who could resist an ice cold beer on a hot summer day? Japan has a thriving craft beer scene and, as it happens, August is the month of the Sapporo Beer Festival in Hokkaido. If you’ve taken our advice above and headed to Hokkaido, this popular drinks festival is an ideal way to cool down. As well as the festival in August, there’s also Sapporo Beer Museum, which can be visited all year round. For more on Japan’s love of beer read our guide to A Craft Beer Tour of Japan.
8.) Summer Food
Japan is a world-famous paradise for food lovers and summer is a great time to sample the country’s amazing cuisine. Read our Beginners Guide to Japanese Food and Regional Dishes for a good overview, while our Japanese Street Food Explained guide covers many of the dishes, such as Takoyaki and Yakitori, that you might see at food stalls on your travels in Japan during August. Alongside this here are a few summer food highlights:
Shaved ice - a Japanese favourite in the hot summer months! You can also choose from a wide range of fruit syrups and toppings.
Cold and refreshing Japanese noodles made from wheat flour, served with a chilled broth.
Sweet, grilled fish on sticks - popular at festivals and fireworks events.
9.) Beaches and watersports
While our list of recommendations has consisted of some alternative summer choices, the classic combination of beach and watersports is also an option in Japan in August. The country has dozens of outstanding and diverse beaches and is a renowned hotspot for a wide range of watersports, including diving. Read our guide to Japan’s Best Beaches and Watersports Destinations for a detailed list of the key destinations and how to get there.
10.) Flowers, Festivals, and Fireworks
In Japan, festivals, fireworks, and flowers might be the most famous symbols of summer, and August is a great time for all three. You’ll find some of Japan’s biggest festivals in August, and a host of special fireworks celebrations which are synonymous with the summer months in Japan. You can find out much more about matsuri, the Japanese word for festivals, in our experts guide to Summer Festivals, while for everything you need to know about fireworks and the festivals taking place in August such as Nagaoka Fireworks, read our article on Hanabi: Japanese Fireworks. August is also when some of the country’s most beautiful flowers bloom. If you love flowers, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Japan - there are almost too many amazing flower parks and fields to mention. Saying that, if you’re already planning a visit to Mt. Fuji and the Fuji Five Lakes based on our recommendation above, then you could also visit Yamanakako Hanano Miyako Park. Yamana Flower Park is located at the base of Mt. Fuji and close to lake Yamanaka, one of the Fuji Five Lakes. At different times of the year, there are over one million seasonal flowers that make for the most colourful display of Fuji, you’ll even see. The park is relatively unknown, but highly recommended on any visit to the area, such as on a day trip to Kawaguchiko (another of the Fuji Five Lakes). Other flower destinations, depending on your itinerary, including the famous Lavender fields in Furano.
- Awa Odori
A hugely popular and colourful dance festival, Awa Odori was originally staged to honour returning ancestral spirits. Fun and colourful, the festival sees hundreds of dancers called Ren compete against each other in Tokushima city centre during August. The dancers, made up of men, women and children, wear distinctive straw hats and summer cotton kimono to create a truly spectacular sight which is watched by more than one million people. Tokushima is on Shikoku, the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, and can be reached with the JR Pass.
- Aomori Nebuta
Nebuta are huge colourful floats made out of papier-mache in the shape of characters from Kabuki theatre, historical figures and mythological creatures, which are accompanied by hundreds of dancers known as Haneto, and the sound of Taiko drums and flute music. It is held annually during the month of August in Aomori, which is in the Tohoku region. To get there from Tokyo using your JR Rail Pass, take the JR Tohoku bullet train to Shin-Aomori station and then transfer to JR Aomori Station.
- The Tanabata Festival
One of the fun festivals found right around Japan is the Tanabata Festival, often referred to as the Star Festival. This ancient Japanese summer festival, held in cities and towns across Japan, celebrates a folk legend of star-crossed lovers. Find out more about it in our guide to The Tanabata Festival for Star-Crossed Lovers.
- Unsure of whether August is for you? Read more about Japan’s Weather and Seasons to decide the best time of year to visit.
- First time in Japan? Our Meet and Greet Service will take care of you from the moment you arrive in Japan. It’s like having an expert personal assistant looking after you.
- While August is typically hot and sunny, it’s also typhoon season. Typhoons are tropical storms that bring strong winds and heavy rainfall, and while there are usually only a handful throughout the year in Japan, it’s worth being prepared. For more information read our guide to Japan’s Typhoon Season.