Across much of Japan, the summer is characterized by hot and humid weather. Taking refuge from the heat, many locals opt for cooler climates near the ocean or up in the mountains. As the heat begins to wane in the evenings, locals partake in regional fireworks displays, traditional song and dance, and centuries-old festivals.
Every summer, hikers from across the world journey to Japan to embark on a trek up its most iconic peak, Mt. Fuji. Waking early in the morning, a seemingly endless procession of hikers make their way to the summit to watch the sunrise across the Pacific Ocean. While Mt. Fuji is not considered a particularly difficult hike among experienced mountaineers, you should carefully prepare your dates and schedule, as the climbing season is limited, and you'll need to reserve your accommodations well in advance. The season begins in early July and continues into the first week of September.
From small-town celebrations to massive metropolitan events, July and August are a time for fireworks. Lasting up to 40 minutes in length, and boasting firepower that puts other displays to shame, these celebrations attract hordes of revelers eager to see a dazzling show. Consider timing your trip to coincide with one of the country's many world-famous festivals.
Ranked within the top three best fireworks displays in Japan, the Nagaoka Matsuri in Niigata Prefecture is a two-day celebration boasting some 20,000 fireworks. Held in the first week of August, travelers from across the world gather along the banks of the Shinano River to witness the spectacular sight.
Held in Yamanashi Prefecture on the northern side of Mt. Fuji, the Shinmei Fireworks Festival consists of 20,000 fireworks synchronized to pyrotechnic displays and music. Held near the Fuefuki River and Kamanashi River, the festival is a great way to conclude a visit to nearby Mt. Fuji.
From rugged river valleys nestled in the mountains to white-capped waves washing onto tropical beaches, Japan is full of thrilling water sports and recreation. Kayak and river raft in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture. Windsurf outside Tokyo on the beautiful beaches in Kanagawa. Find more surfing spots in Chiba, Wakayama or Miyazaki Prefecture. Or head to Okinawa and its many nearby islands to go snorkeling or scuba diving.
Traditional summer festivals provide an opportunity to witness local culture firsthand. Towns across the country present one-of-a-kind celebrations that feature traditional mikoshi floats, dancing, costumes, and ample amounts of food and drink. Join the revelry for genuine fun and a closer connection to the culture.
Located in the northern prefecture of Aomori, the Nebuta Matsuri attracts thousands of visitors eager to watch a procession of enchanting illuminated floats running along the streets. The festivities last from August 2nd to August 7th, with a fireworks finale on the last day.
From August 6th to 8th, the city of Sendai comes together to celebrate the Sendai Tanabata Matsuri. Countless colorful streamers hang from city streets and shopping areas, transforming the city into an otherworldly wonderland.
Known as the largest festival in the Tohoku region, the Yamagata Hanagasa Festival is a celebration of regional dance and music. Held from August 5th to 7th, the streets fill with kimono-clad dancers moving enthusiastically to the beat of taiko drums. Witnessing the traditional performance, you'll feel like you've been transported to another era.
Taking place in Osaka, the Tenjin Festival is considered one of the biggest three festivals in Japan (alongside the Kanda Matsuri in Tokyo and the Gion Matsuri in Kyoto). Ornately decorated floats are carried across the center of the city, followed by a river procession and a massive fireworks display. The scale of the event—consisting of countless floats, boats, and fireworks, is a sight to behold.
Regardless of your destination within Japan, chances are you'll come across a nearby festival or event during the summer months. The excitement and sense of revelry will make dealing with the heat that much easier.