How did you wile away the summer days? Took off to the beach or barbeque at a park or leapt fearlessly from tire swings into lakes? Next year if you’re in Japan for the halcyon season, consider exploring more uniquely Japanese ways of enjoying summer.
Festivals are a great way to experience a town’s local culture while celebrating the beauty of summer. Springing up all over Japan from May to August, festivals are the festive way to lose yourself in the spirit of the season. From the Eisa Festival in Okinawa all the way up to the Yosakoi Soran Festival in Hokkaido, you can find a festival in any city you’ve always wanted to visit. For example, the Gion Festival in Kyoto lasts the entire month of July. The whole city lights up with a celebratory atmosphere. There are loads of beautiful floats to see and during July 17th, Yamahoko-junko, 32 beautiful yama-hoko floats are taken through the streets by traditionally costumed groups of people. From July 14th to the 16th is Yoi-yama, a time when the Shijo Muromachi area is overrun by pedestrians in the evening as vendors line the streets and traditional festival music fills the air. What better time to experience all the cultural wealth of Kyoto?
Unlike the United States, fireworks displays take place all summer long in Japan. Those events are festivals unto themselves and are a symbol of the season in Japan. While a large portion of the hanabitaikai, 花火大会, are in Tokyo, a little research should find you one in whichever town you’re passing through.
More contemporary options for revelry are attending a music festival or touring a beer garden. Beer is hands-down the most popular alcoholic drink in Japan and almost always accompanies group social activities. A hot and humid day goes swell with a glass of Japanese beer and there are plenty of great beer gardens and restaurants to choose from. In Sapporo is the Sapporo Beer Garden and there is a museum of Ebisu Beer in Tokyo. Another famous beer company has a chain of restaurants called Kirin City and can be found in most major cities. Beer is also available for adults at music festivals, some of which are also located near campsites for a complete immersion experience.
Ever thought of terrifying the heat away? Give yourself the chills with an evening tour of a haunted house. The scariest haunted house in Japan is Fuji Q Highland’s Saikyou Senritsu Meikyu. Through a haunted hospital is a .6mile route that takes approximately 60 blood-freezing minutes to walk. Who can forget the scenes from Chakushin Ari (One Missed call) or Ringu? Are you brave enough to make it through without crying or will you run screaming to the end? Only one way to find out!
How will you spend next summer in Japan? Comment below and share with us your plans or past discoveries!