Summer might be known as one of the worst period to go to Japan, mostly because of its suffocating humidity and the lack of iconic landscapes, like the blooming cherry trees in spring or the colorful autumn foliage. Nothing is further from the truth: summer in Japan, and especially summer in Tokyo, is one of the best time to come to the Land of the Rising Sun, thanks to its countless outdoor activities and its lively atmosphere.
Let’s find out what are the best things you can (and must) do in Tokyo during summer.
Attend summer Festivals
Summer is the season of traditional festival, called matsuri (祭り) in Japanese. Festival season starts in July, with a lot of events held across the country almost everyday. Tokyo get’s the lion’s share, with loads of events and festivals happening every weekend: from Tanabata Festival in July, dedicated to the deities Orihime and Hikoboshi, two lovers separated by Milky Way that can meet only once per year, to the Koenji Awaodori at the end of August, a dancing parade festival, with over 10,000 Awa dancers and 1,000,000 visitors.
These festivals represent also one of the best chances to get real Japanese street food: countless yatai (屋台), traditional food cart, serve and sell many delicacies like takoyaki (fried batter’s balls filled with little pieces of octopus, ginger and onion), yakisoba (fried noodles with pork, cabbage and other toppings) or the cute tayaki (a fish-shaped cake filled with custard cream, azuki beans paste or chocolate). Yatai also sell cold drinks and kakigori (shaved ice that comes in different flavors, from matcha to strawberry), a real godsend against the sultriness of summer.
Matsuri are the perfect occasion to enjoy summer in Tokyo, while learning about Japan’s traditions and customs.
Watch fireworks show
Fireworks in Japan are a big deal, and summer is filled with colorful, loud and pyrotechnical fireworks festival.
Compared to fireworks show in other countries, Japan’s ones are very impressive: they usually last for at least 1 hour, with over 10,000 fireworks being set off on average.
Called hanabi taikai (花火大会), these festivals are some of the most popular summer events in Japan: thousands of people gather together to watch the show, often wearing traditional garments, and to enjoy the lively summer nights.
If you spend your summer in Tokyo you will have the chance to attend some of the most impressive hanabi taikai in the world, like the Sumida River Fireworks Festival. This event boasts more than 22,000 fireworks, with an attendance of around 1,000,000 people! There is fierce competition to get good observation spots around Sumida River, in order to avoid buildings and trees that might obstruct the view: more often than not, people show up hours in advance to take the best spots for them and their friends.
Drink and dine at a Beer Garden
Originally a German concept, beer gardens are a pretty popular event in Japan as well.
The basic definition of a beer garden is an outdoor area where food, usually Japanese BBQ style, is served with beer (A LOT of beer). Unfortunately, especially in the crowded megalopolis like Tokyo and Osaka, the “garden” part is not always present: many beer garden are in fact located on the roof of hotels and department stores.
Going to a beer garden in summer is a must do activity: great atmosphere, tasty food, all-you-can-drink…what else do you need?
Oh right! Beer garden are also some of the best events to meet locals and make new friends: the shared tables make it easy to start a conversation with your neighbours, and the fun and relaxed environment will be the key to have a great night with old and new friends!
Your summer in Tokyo
These are just a few examples of the the best things you can do in Tokyo. Visiting the city during summer will allow you to discover hidden gems, dine at traditional restaurants that serves special dishes available only in summer, and stroll along rivers and canals wearing a yukata (a casual summer kimono).
All of the above and many more exciting activities are included in our Summer Course in Tokyo! You’ll be able to immerge yourself in the local language, mingling with likeminded travelers and experiencing a fun-filled, amazing adventure!