The summer heat doesn't dampen Japan's spirit, and the warmer months are host to some of the country's best and biggest festivals. Between all the fireworks displays and traditional dances, take time to relax in the mountains, at the beach or simply sit back with an ice cold brew.
table of contents
The Top 10 Things to Do in Japan During July
Attend a Summer Festival (Matsuri)
Photo by Benoist/Shutterstock
Summer in Japan is festival season, and some of the country's most beloved festivals are held during hotter months. In fact, two of the 'Nihon Sandai Matsuri' (Japan's Top Three Festivals) are celebrated each year in July: Kyoto's celebrated Gion Matsuri, often called Japan's largest festival, and Osaka's spectacular Tenjin Matsuri.
Hit the Spot with Chilled Soba
Photo by jazz3311/Shutterstock
As the temperature soars, people turn away from hot and hearty meals and look to chilled, lighter fare to hit the spot. One favorite is zarusoba, which is cold soba (buckwheat noodles) served with a flavorful sauce known as tsuyu for dipping. Summer is also the best time to enjoy watermelon, pitted fruits like peaches and mugi-cha, a tea made from roasted barley served ice cold.
Watch a Fireworks Display (Hanabi Taikai)
Photo by Rei Imagine/Shutterstock
During the summer months, countless fireworks festivals or 'hanabi taikai' are held throughout Japan. One of the largest of these is the Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival in Tokyo. Nearly a million spectators gather along the banks of the Sumida River to watch the hour-long show at the end of the month.
Surf the White-sand Beaches
Photo by tutae/Shutterstock
As Japan is a nation comprised of countless islands, it makes sense that hanging out at the beach would be a popular summer past time. Some of the most beaches are located in Okinawa, the nation's southernmost prefecture. Okinawa is famous for its friendly, laid-back locals and scores of beautiful, white sand beaches and coral reefs. Surfing, snorkeling, diving, fishing and other ocean sports can be enjoyed in its pristine blue waters.
Try Melt-proof Ice Cream
In 2017, Japan launched an ice pop called Kanazawa Ice that resists hot temperatures. Even on a balmy summer day, the frozen treat maintains its shape - thanks to a little help from researchers at the Biotherapy Development Research Center in Kanazawa. The scientists accidentally discovered a compound in strawberries that slows down the separation of oil and water, meaning ice cream can hold its shape for longer without dripping.
Dress Up in Yukata
Photo by Kang Shi Zheng/Shutterstock
Yukata are the lighter, summer versions of the traditional Japanese kimono. They are typically less expensive and easier to wear than other kimono types, so they're also the most common form of traditional dress still in use in Japan today. Yukata are a common sight at summer festivals, especially fireworks displays.
Chug a Few Pints at the Beer Garden
Photo by xmee/Shutterstock
From July until the cooler weather arrives, beer gardens begin popping up all over Japan. Rooftops, public squares and restaurant terraces are all popular spots for beer gardens to make an appearance. Beer is a popular beverage year-round in Japan, but has long been associated with refreshment on a hot summer day, and beer sales are higher during the hotter months.
Cool Off in the Mountains
Photo by siriwat sriphojaroen/Shutterstock
Japan's remote mountains and hiking trails are the ideal refuge from the summer heat. With hundreds of mountains to explore, including the famous Japan Alps, climbers can take on a new challenge each week. Summer is also the only time climbers can tackle Mount Fuji, Japan's tallest peak, which is open from July to early September.
Make a Wish During the Star Festival (Tanabata)
Photo by yisris/Flickr
The Star Festival or Tanabata is held on July 7th each year. According to legend, it's the only night of the year when two star-crossed lovers, represented by the stars Altair and Vega, are able to meet by crossing the Milky Way. On the days leading up to the star festival, cities are decorated with colorful streamers, and people write their wishes on paper strips and hang them from bamboo branches. The most famous Tanabata Festival in Japan is in Sendai, held one month later than the rest of Japan but closer to the traditional lunar calendar date, on August 7th.
Get into the Spirit of the Dance at Awa Odori
Photo by Stemu2000/WikiCommons
Each summer, Awa Dance Festivals or Awa Odori are held throughout Japan. The largest and most popular of these is the one in Tokushima City, where the Awa Dance originated over 400 years ago. At an Awa Odori, groups of dancers called 'ren' parade through the streets wearing traditional dress. One of the most memorable features is the chant sung throughout the performance, 'Ah, yatto, yatto, yattosa!' It means, 'It's been a while, how are you?'
Beaches and festivals, traditions and fireworks - the summer month of July is one of the most exciting times of the year to visit Japan.