Japanese Summer Traditions and Travel

Summer in Japan: Travel, Traditions, Festivals, and Food

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Guide to Japanese Summer Traditions – Natsu no Fuubutsu Shi

Planning to visit Japan this summer? Japan is a country surrounded by water, so the summer can be hot and relentlessly humid. It might not be the most comfortable season to travel to Japan, but Japanese people know how to enjoy it. Summer traditions in Japan are called Natsu no Fuubutsu Shi (夏の風物詩). it is nice to remember this phrase because you will hear it everywhere during the summer.

Here are some Natsu no Fuubutsu Shi that you can look for during the summer in Japan.

Japanese Summer Festivals – Omatsuri

Festivals are called Omatsuri (お祭り). Most of the summer festivals are held in July and August.

Omatsuris in Japan are different from the image of typical festivals in the west. They are usually related to local shrines, so Omatsuris not only celebrate the summer but also have a meaning to show appreciation to each god. Omikoshi (お神輿 Meaning: Portable Shrine) can be seen during the day of Omatsuri.

Omikoshi Japanese Summer Traditions

There are various sizes of Omatsuris, from local small ones to huge ones with 2-3 million visitors each year.

Top 3 Omatsuri Summer Festivals in Japan:

1. Gion Matsuri

  • Date   July 1 – 31
  • Place Kyoto City, Kyoto

Gion Matsuri Kyoto

2. Sendai Tanabata Matsuri

  • Date   August 6-9
  • Place Sendai City, Miyagi

Sendai Tanabata Matsuri Festival Miyagi, Japan

3. Fukagawa Matsuri

  • Date   August 11-15
  • Place Koto Ward, Tokyo
Fukagawa Matsuri Festival Tokyo, Japan
Photo credit: Koto City

Japanese Festivals

People enjoy folk dances, Bon-Odori (盆踊り) at local small Omatsuris.

Fireworks Shows in Japan – Hanabi-Taikai

Japanese Fireworks Shows

There are many Hanabi-Taikai (花火大会) “Fireworks Shows” in July and August. These fireworks displays do not celebrate a specific holiday, so you can see them very often throughout the summer in Japan.

Top 3 Fireworks Shows in Japan:

1. Lake Suwa Festival Fireworks Show on the Lake

  • Month August
  • Place  Suwa City, Nagano
  • Approximately 40,000 individual fireworks

2. Utsunomiya Fireworks Show

  • Month August
  • Place  Utsunomiya City, Tochigi
  • Approximately 30,000 individual fireworks

3. Ashikaga Fireworks Show

  • Month August
  • Place  Ashikaga City, Tochigi
  • Approximately 25,000 individual fireworks

Best Fireworks Show in Tokyo:

Sumida River Fireworks Show

  • Month July
  • Place  Sumida-ward, Tokyo
  • Approximately 20,000 individual fireworks

People enjoy fireworks by wearing Yukata (浴衣), which is a summer kimono. It is a traditional style outfit, but there are easy-to-wear Yukatas that you can put on in a minute. It will be fun to buy one and wear it to festivals and fireworks shows!

By the way, there are many small stands called Yatai (屋台) at most of the festivals and fireworks displays. People enjoy street food and games there.

Beaches in Japan – Kaisui-Yokujyo

Japanese Beach

Beaches in Japan are called Kaisui-Yokujyo (海水浴場). There are many beaches in Japan since the country is surrounded by the ocean. Some beaches have natural black sand, therefore it is not always a “blue ocean with white sand” type of beach”, but doesn’t mean it is dirty.

There are Umi-no-ie (海の家 Meaning: House of the Sea) at every beach that provide changing rooms, resting areas, showers, lockers, etc and food. People enjoy food from Umi-no-ie for a special summery atmosphere.

Top 5 Most Popular Japanese Beach Foods at Umi-no-ie:

  1. Shaved Ice

  2. Yakisoba

  3. Ramen

  4. Curry Rice

  5. Grilled Corn

Japanese Outdoor Beer Gardens

If you like drinking beer, beer gardens might be for you especially if you are staying as a group in Tokyo. A typical beer garden in Japan has outside seating with a nice view and often comes with all you can drink/eat options. Some of them are open only for a couple of weeks in summer, but many are open until September or October.

The types and styles of beer gardens have varied in recent years, so you may find many different venues and food options. It is recommended to do your own research and make a reservation in advance.

Japanese Summer Foods

Lastly, here are some only-in-summer foods that you can enjoy in Japan:

Kaki-Gori (かき氷)

Kaki-Gori is shaved ice with syrup poured on top. This used to be something that was made at home or could be only bought from Yatais, however, recently there are many specialty stores.

Kaki-Gori Japanese Shaved Ice

Hiyashi-Chuuka (冷やし中華)

Hiyashi-Chuuka is something like cold ramen, but the sauce is usually a bit sour. It is a seasonal menu for a lot of restaurants, so they put a special sign saying Hiyashi-Chuuka hajime mashita (冷やし中華はじめました) when they start serving the dish.

Hiyashi-Chuuka Japanese Summer Dishes

Somen (そうめん、素麺)

This is also a cold noodle dish that is put in water with ice cubes, and you dip it into a soup called Mentsuyu (麺つゆ). It is mostly eaten at home, so we don’t see it at a restaurant often, but try making it if there is a kitchen in your accommodation since it takes only 2 minutes to cook and is very easy to prepare.

Another fun thing that’s enjoyed by local people in summer is an event called Nagashi Somen (流しそうめん) where Somen is poured down a bamboo slide, and we catch it with chopsticks and dip it in mentsuyu to eat.

Nagashi-Somen Japanese Summer Dishes

As everyone knows already, next summer Olympic games are in Tokyo! Even if you don’t visit Japan this summer, try to plan for next year. I hope you get some ideas from this article and enjoy summer in Japan like locals do!

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