Japan's summers tend to be hot and humid (similar to the East Coast of the United States). So if you're visiting, be prepared to combat frizzy hair, clingy clothing, and clammy skin. However, there are many tourist activities in this country that allow you to beat the heat. Try climbing Mount Fuji for some high-altitude reprieve or hit the beach for a swim in the salt water. An evening fireworks show or music festival can also offer a break from daytime humidity levels, if you time it right. And sleeping in a tent under the stars will put you in touch with nature throughout your air-filled slumber.
Did you know that fireworks originated in Asia? Called hanabi in Japan, fireworks are a country-wide summer tradition. Seize the opportunity to view one (or two) of the many fireworks celebrations during your summer vacation to Japan, as they're not reserved for just one summer holiday. If you're visiting Hokkaido, check out nightly fireworks on the shore of Lake Toya. Or, catch a front-row seat at the Omagari Fireworks, Japan's own pyrotechnic contest. It's a great way to pass the hot summer nights.
AddressMount Fuji, Kitayama, Fujinomiya, Shizuoka Prefecture 418-0112, Japan
If you're the outdoorsy type, you'll want to take in the sights of Mount Fuji, Japan's highest mountain peak standing at 12,389 feet. Mount Fuji is one of three sacred mountain sites in Japan, as well as an active volcano. (But don't worry. It last erupted on December 16, 1707). Located on the island of Honshu, Mount Fuji's climbing season takes place from July 1 to mid-September when there is very little snow and the temperatures are mild. Take the Yoshida Trail to the top and either camp or reserve one of the mountain huts along the route.
A trip to a Japanese waterpark provides a refreshing reprieve for both tourists and locals. And while you may beat the heat, you might have to deal with some crowds at places like Tokyo Summerland, Water Amusement Island, or Tobu Super Pool. Traveling in June or September will allow you to avoid the Japanese school vacation in July and August. Research the best times to go and avoid them altogether if you're sporting a noticeable tattoo. Many Japanese water parks have a strict "no tattoos" policy. If you're spotted with one, you will be removed from the park without a refund.
AddressMiyako-jima, Miyakojima, Okinawa Prefecture 906-0000, Japan
It's no wonder that Japan—being a nation of islands—has fabulous sandy beaches. And if you're a surfer, even better, as many world-class surf spots pepper this country's coast. Emerald Beach on Okinawa boasts bright blue waters and a tropical feel. Shirahama Ohama Beach on Shizuoka is a great beach for swimming. Isonoura Beach of Wakayama prefecture attracts surfers from all over. It's also a great beach from which to watch the sunset on a steamy summer night.
Camping is a popular leisure activity among the Japanese, but it's also a great (and inexpensive) way to visit the country. Fee campgrounds exist throughout Japan and most offer hot showers, bathrooms, and some even have hot springs. You can usually rent tents and camping gear, as well. Try urban camping if you are in or around a city, but be discreet and pitch your tent in the back corner of a public park. It's not illegal, but can be frowned upon if you overstay your welcome. You can also camp for free by hitting the high country and camping in the wilderness.
Japan offers your pick of summer music events and many music festivals feature artists from around the world. Head to Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata, Japan to escape the heat and enjoy the Fuji Rock Festival. Punk and hip-hop lovers can jam out to Summer Sonic (outside Tokyo) which has featured acts like Avril Lavigne, the Beastie Boys, and Lee "Scratch" Perry. And if late August finds you in Japan, check out Sukiyaki Meets the World in Nanto, Toyama. This venue boasts music from all continents and cultures and features Japan's own Sukiyaki Steel Orchestra.
Obon is a cultural Japanese event that celebrates the deceased ancestors of the locals. Depending on the region, this event often takes place in July or August and kicks off with a festival of paper lanterns (chochin lanterns). During this time, celebrations consist of dance performances and paper lantern floats where lanterns are placed in a river that leads out to the sea. Symbolically, this represents sending the ancestors’ spirits into the sky. The Daimonji Festival in Kyoto is the most popular Obon festival, but many cities and towns will also have their own celebrations.
Like watermelon and ice cream to Americans, nothing says "summer" in Japan better than a bowl of somen noodles. These thin, wheat-based noodles (like spaghetti) are offered up cold, usually alongside a traditional fermented dipping sauce called tsuyu. Of course, you can also enjoy this noodle dish as a salad served with lettuce, ham, scrambled eggs, and topped with sesame seeds. Depending on the restaurant, somen dishes can be piled high, with fresh toppings like seasonal produce, for the perfect summer snack.