Summer in Japan arrives suddenly, temperatures sky rocket to the high 30’s in Tokyo, even reached 40 at times. The land becomes humid and the rainy season and typhoon season bring frequent downpours. Summer is long, hot and humid but is filled with festivals, fireworks and the beauty of the Japanese landscape.
Fireworks, or Hanabi, are popular across Japan in the summer and firework displays are well attended across the country. Different towns, villages and areas in Japan all hold firework festivals over the summer months and it is common to attend these shows dressed in light summer kimono or yukata. Food stalls are often available at firework displays alongside traditional festival games, such as catching goldfish with a paper circle. Where ever you are staying in Japan through July and August you are likely to find a local display to attend, in some places fireworks are even set off every night for several weeks! Attending a fireworks display is a quintessential aspect of Japanese summer.
Obon is a Buddhist festival to honour the dead and is celebrated each year over three days. Bon Odori occurs at three separate times in different areas of Japan since the change to the Georgian calendar from the lunar calendar, this means there are more chances to observe this ancient custom. At Obon a traditional dance, the Bon Odori, is performed to reduce the suffering of our ancestors. The exact dance and music that it is performed to varies across the regions in Japan. Offerings of food are also common during Obon for the spirits of the ancestors and lanterns are hung outside homes to guide the spirits and on the last day these lanterns are floated down rivers to help the spirits return to their world.
Other festivals are also common in Japan during summer, and each area usually has one festival in late summer coinciding with the rice harvest. In Japan, these festivals are called Matsuri and are often sponsored by local temples or shrines. Maturi features bustling food stalls, traditional games and entertainment such as sumo or dance. Tanabata is a widely celebrated festival in Japan, during Tanabata people write wishes on thin slips of paper and tie them to bamboo branches.
Mount Fuji is the icon of Japan, with its symmetrical peak and colour’s that change with the season Mount Fuji is always a sight to behold. It is often said that everyone should climb Mt Fuji once in their life, and summer is the only time of the year that this is possible. The official climbing season of Mt Fuji starts on the 1st of July and ends in August, this is the time of year when the weather at the peak and the temperatures are at a level that is acceptable to climb. Even though this is the official climbing season it is wise to check the weather forecast before you climb as strong winds and temperatures below 0 can still occur. If you are visiting Japan in the summer do not miss this opportunity to climb to the top of one the most famous mountains in the world, if you time it right you can witness the sunrise over the land from the peak.
Whatever you choose to do if you visit in summer always be prepared for the heat, humidity and rain. Make sure you stay hydrated, which is easy to do with access to vending machines, and do not get too much sun exposure.