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Some Like It Hot! Japan set for red hot summer
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Some Like It Hot! Japan set for red hot summer

This year’s summer might be the hottest yet in Japan. Here’s everything you need to know. 

Japan’s Hottest Summer Ever?
A Celebration of Summer
Best Indoor Activities During Hot Weather
Bonus Recommendations


Summer is officially here, and Japan might be set for its hottest ever. With temperatures already reaching 35 degrees Celsius in mid-June, the forecast is hot, hot, hot, in Japan. Typically, Japanese summers tend to be hot, humid, and sometimes wet. The country has a rainy season as well as high temperatures and humidity, but it’s also known for glorious summer weather too. If you like it hot, then summer in Japan could be for you. 

As well as the country’s beautiful beaches and the abundance of outdoor activities, from climbing and walking to water sports and boating, Japan also likes to party in summer with fireworks and colourful festivals. While you’ll need to be mindful of extremely high temperatures, it can be an amazing time to visit, and Japan has no shortage of indoor activities to keep you entertained when you do need to cool down too. Let’s take a look.

Japan’s Hottest Summer Ever?

This June, the Japan Meteorological Agency reported temperatures of more than 30 degrees Celsius in Tokyo and highs of 35 degrees Celsius in Fukushima prefecture with predictions that this could go up even further. If this happens, 2024 could be Japan’s hottest summer on record - exceeding last year’s already record breaking temperatures. June is usually known as the month of water due to the start of the rainy season, but the weather seems to have other ideas this year with a potential heatwave on the way. Generally, July and August tend to be Japan’s hottest summer months, but it does vary across the country, from the white-sand beaches of the south to the mountains of central Japan all the way up to Hokkaido, Japan’s northernmost island, which is a top tip to visit for those who prefer cooler climates. Summer in Japan is known for being fun, fun, fun in the sun, sun, sun, but visitors and residents also need to be careful in such high temperatures. It’s important to dress appropriately and have different clothing options for the changing weather. Either way, if you’re a sun worshipper, it’s a brilliant time to visit this beautiful and unforgettable country.   

A Celebration of Summer

As we mentioned above, Japan likes to party in the summertime, particularly through its traditional festivals (matsuri) and spectacular firework displays. Needless to say, food and drink is also involved and it’s a great time of year to enjoy Japan’s many outdoor activities. Keep reading to find out more:

  • Celebrate the Great Outdoors

Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors, and Japan offers a very wide-ranging selection of activities thanks to its diverse landscape, which includes mountains, forests, and lakes, as well as lush countryside and idyllic beaches. Climbing and hiking, kayaking and canoeing, cycling, swimming, diving, water sports, and much more, are all very popular and very accessible activities in Japan. If you love the great outdoors, you’ll be spoilt for choice. There are also more sedate and relaxing outdoor activities available from visiting green tea plantations and rice fields to visiting fruit farms and flower gazing. The summer months see some of Japan’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. But we’ll try! 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.

For something more energetic, why not consider Japan’s many hiking, climbing, and walking trails, river rafting, cycling, or diving? Just be mindful of the high temperatures when engaging in any kind of strenuous outdoor activity during the summer. If you need to cool down, but still want to stay active then maybe consider water sports? Read our guide to Japan’s Best Water sports Destinations for more. 

  • Fireworks

Unlike most countries where fireworks are linked with autumn and winter, in Japan, these dazzling displays are very much a summer activity. The word ‘hanabi’ in Japanese means ‘flower fire’ - a very apt and beautiful description for fireworks, which hints at their cultural significance in Japan. Hanabi first became popular during the Edo period as a symbol and celebration of spiritual beauty. They have also been historically used to ward off evil spirits, and in the modern era have become synonymous celebrations, from summer festivals and major sporting & music events, through to bringing in the New Year. Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival in Tokyo is arguably the oldest and most historic firework display in Japan and takes place every summer. Tokyo’s Sumida River Fireworks Festival dates back to the 1700s and is staged on the last Saturday in July each year along the river. You can reach the area via Asakusa Station. The festival is also close to Tokyo’s famous Sensoji Temple. For a list of the most famous fireworks festivals across Japan read our in-depth guide to Hanabi: Japanese Fireworks.

  • Summer Festivals 

Festivals are big in Japan and some of the country’s biggest annual festivals take place during summer. There are an estimated 300,000 Matsuri across Japan, and several thousand over the summer months. There are so many ‘matsuri’ because almost every shrine, town and village has its own festival. The focal point of these can vary, from honouring a shrine’s kami (a Shinto deity), to remembering an important historical event, or celebrating a particular season such as summer. Traditional matsuri feature processions and decorated floats known as dashi, yatai, danjiri, and other regional variations. Kami are sometimes carried from their shrines in mikoshi (essentially a portable shrine carried by the procession), and processions are often accompanied by drum and flute music. However, each matsuri is also slightly different, with its own unique personality and characteristics. While some are serene and peaceful, others are colourful, loud and energetic, and feature dancing and singing. Traditional matsuri are a great way to experience the history and culture of Japan and summer arguably brings together the most colourful and spectacular. Look out for summer parades, floats, decorations, dancing, food, games, fireworks, and more! 

One particularly famous summer festival to look out for is Gion Matsuri in Kyoto. The festival dates back to 869 and the grand procession of floats - Yamaboko Junko - is so spectacular and so significant to the people of Kyoto, and the rest of Japan, that it has been registered with UNESCO as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. For a full guide to this famous festival, read Experiencing the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto. Also in July is Tenjin Matsuri at Tenmangu Shrine in Osaka, which attracts over 1.5 million visitors each year. The temple is closely located to the station called JR Osaka Tenmangu station, which can be reached using the JR Osaka Loop Line and Japan Rail Pass. For a different kind of festival, you could also check out Soma Nomaoi, a three-day celebration of martial arts and horsemanship in northeast Honshu, which also takes place each year in July. To reach Soma, take the JR Tohoku Shinkansen line to Sendai and switch to the JR Joban line for Soma. Also taking place over the summer, is the famous Obon festival, and the Tanabata Star Festival. For a full list read our guide to Summer Festivals in Japan: the Expert Guide.   

  • Summer Delicacies

Look out for these summer dishes at festivals and elsewhere across Japan when the sun is shining. 

·       Kakitori: Shaved ice with syrup. This is one of Japan’s favourite summer foods and perfect for cooling down.

·       Goya: A bitter melon that grows in the summer months, goya is very good for you but has a love it or hate it flavour. It’s sometimes cooked in a larger dish with other ingredients such as the Okinawan speciality goya-champuru which features pork, tofu, bean sprouts, and egg as well as goya.

·       Hiyayakko: A cold tofu dish traditionally topped with katsuobushi fish flakes and spring onions with ginger and soy sauce.

·       Watermelon: A delicious slice of watermelon served fresh.

·       Nagashi Somen: This is almost like a festival game in itself! Diners have to grab cold, somen noodles as they slide down a bamboo chute. You can then dip your noodles in a soy-style sauce.

·       Yakitori: Skewered meat grilled over charcoal – the beautiful simplicity and amazing taste of Yakitori makes it a street food favourite in Japan.

·       Tomorokoshi: People are often surprised that corn cobs (which are often seen as being quintessentially American) are so popular in Japan, especially from Yatai street vendors and Matsuri stalls. Of course, the Japanese version is unique and delicious – it is grilled with miso, butter, and soy and served on a stick. Tomorokoshi is traditionally associated with the Hokkaido region. For more suggestions, read our guide to Japanese Food and Regional Dishes

Best Indoor Activities During Hot Weather

Too hot outside? No problem! No sunshine? No problem! Japan has a huge amount to do indoors. From Kabuki to Anime, world-class aquariums to arcades, shopping to sumo, traditional ryokan to relaxing onsenand hot spring resorts, there’s always something to do in Japan, whatever the weather. If it does rain, why not head inside and enjoy some Kabuki - traditional and highly stylised Japanese theatre that’s as quintessentially Japanese as Sumo wrestling and sushi. It’s ideal for when the weather is less than perfect and you’re getting the chance to experience one of the country's most authentic and historic cultural displays. Why not try Kabukiza in Ginza, Tokyo? You can even book a special five-hour performance which will give the weather plenty of time to cool down. A more contemporary indoor pastime for both the Japanese and international visitors is of course, computer game arcades and anime. These are huge pastimes in Japan - so much so that there is a word for the culture that surrounds it, Otaku. From the word for ‘house’, Otaku is often used interchangeably to describe geek culture although what it actually means is someone so passionate about their hobbies or interests that they never leave the house. It was originally ascribed to manga and anime lovers, but it is regularly used to describe gamers too. And of course, one of the advantages of not leaving the house, is not getting wet! If you love gaming and don’t like the rain, you might want to consider a trip to Sony’s famous showroom in Tokyo, Club Sega and Sega Joypolis, or the famous Super Potato game store. For much more on computer games, anime, cosplay and more, read our guide to Japan for gamers, Otaku, and J-Culture Fans. And remember if you’re travelling around the inner districts of major cities such as Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, and others in search of indoor fun, then you may also need a prepaid travel card, such as ICOCA, PASMO or Suica, as well as your Japan Rail Pass.

Bonus Recommendations

  • When travelling to Japan in the summer months, remember to pack suitable light clothing, including different kinds of footwear, and waterproof items for when it rains, and don’t forget sunscreen. Temperatures can reach 93°F.    
  • If travelling to Japan in the height of summer sounds much too hot for you, then how about autumn, spring, or winter? Our hand-picked bonus recommendations can help you plan a trip during the rest of the year. Read our post on Japan’s Seasons and Weather for more.
  • Stay ahead of the weather by keeping an eye on the latest online forecast. To do this, we recommend purchasing a PocketWifi device for unlimited WIFI 24/7 on up to 10 devices.  

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