Skiiers and snowboarders flock to Japan for the famed ski fields each winter but even the northern reaches of this island country come alive in the summer. The countryside explodes with flowers, the cities are full of people staying out late to sip cold beer and catch-up with friends and the remote, southern islands come into their own as a beach destination. These are just a few of the summer highs you can experience in Japan in the heat.
Marvel at the fireworks
In Japan, summer means fireworks. No matter which city you’re in, you’re likely to see the sky sparkle for at least a few nights of your trip. Key celebrations include the six-thousand firework Yokohama International Fireworks display in July, the Tokyo Bay Grand Fireworks Festival at the Harumi Futo Pier in August and the Omagari Fireworks Festival, the latter set to attract almost 800,000 spectators in August 2019.
For the entire month of July, Kyoto is all about the Gion Festival. Its origins more than a millennia ago were about appeasing the gods and while there is a still a religious element to today’s celebrations, it’s also a chance for neighbours to get together in a giant street party.
See a sumo tournament
Though you can see sumo matches throughout the year, the 15-day Nagoya tournament is held in July. As well as having the chance to watch masters of the country’s national sport in their element, the air-conditioned venues provide a welcome respite from the steamy heat outside. The main event is a float procession down the main roads.
Experience Bon Odori
Get your moves ready – in summer, the streets come alive with these traditional dance festivals. As well as being a joyous celebration, the celebrations are also intended to welcome the spirits of ancestors into the home. Over three days, people lay lanterns at the graves of their festivals and get together to learn and perform the dances.
See the wildflowers
When the weather warms, fields throughout Japan explode in technicolour blooms. Though spring is for cherry blossoms, come June an abundance of roses, hydrangeas, irises, sunflowers and lavender bloom in the thousands. Hokkaido, better known as a ski destination, is blanketed in colour come summer – Furano and Biel are the best towns to experience the patchwork.
Sapparo Summer Festival
Come July this city becomes one giant beer garden – unsurprising, really, given it shared its name with one of Japan’s popular lagers. The Sapporo Summer Festival runs for about a month and in addition to the enormous outdoor drinking space, there’s also live music, dancing and markets.
Climb Mount Fuji
It’s most-often pictured with a snow-capped peaks but Mount Fuji’s official climbing season is actually from July to September. Four trails snake to the summit, each with their own challenges that take between eight and 10 hours to compete. Be prepared to face a crowd – almost 173,000 people traipsed the relatively easy Yoshida Trail in summer 2017.
Visit the Okinawa Islands
The beaches in this sub-tropical prefecture are as impressive as the ones you’d find in Hawaii and Fiji. Once a haven for savvy travellers, the secret got out when Ishigaki Island was named TripAdvisor’s number one destination for 2018. But there are still plenty of hidden turquoise coves to explore away from the neon jungle of Japan’s busy cities.