It’s here! Summer, in Japanese Natsu (夏), has arrived and it is already unbearably hot! I won’t lie, summer is not my favorite season and coming to Japan during the summer months is a pure act of love for my boyfriend but I found some ways to enjoy the season.
Here is my personal list of 10 things to do during the Japanese summer.
1. Enjoy Summer Festivals
Matsuri (祭) is the name of Summer Festivals in Japan. Summer Festival are everywhere in Japan during summer, every neighborhood, every small village has one. Streets are covered with food stalls, yatai in Japanese (屋台), and there are dances, music and celebrations. The usually calm and neat Japanese atmosphere is filled with energy and will to have fun.
There are delicious street foods to try during Matsuri like yakisoba (fried noodles) and takoyaki (octopus balls) and also games which usually imply catching something like fish or water filled balloons in order to win a prize.
2. Wear a Yukata
Summer is the perfect season to wear a yukata (浴衣), the summer version of Kimono. Yukata is made of cotton and comes in many varieties of colors and patterns, flower patterns are usually the choice of Japanese girls while boys prefer geometrical patterns.
3. Watch amazing fireworks
Hanabi (花火), literally translated fire flowers, is the Japanese word for fireworks. They are integral part of almost every summer festival and, needless to say, they are beautiful and romantic.
4. Cool down waving a Japanese fan
There are two types of fans in Japan, the foldable fan, called sensu, which was invented in Japan and the hand-held fan, called uchiwa, imported from China. Sensu are made of cloth or paper, in general they are more elegant and they are used for ceremonies and held as an accessory for example during shinto weddings or traditional dances. Uchiwa are made of paper with a bamboo frame, during summer many uchiwa made with a plastic frame are given away for free as advertising. They saved my life a couple of times when I forgot mine at home.
5. Refresh with Kakigori
Kakigori (かき氷) is a refreshing dessert made of big slices of ice topped with syrup of different flavors such as lemon, strawberry, matcha, coke, mint and so on. Shops selling kakigori hang a traditional blue flag with the kanji of ice on it (氷) so they are easy to find.
6. Try Suikawari
Suika is the Japanese word for watermelon, the number one summer fruit. Suikawari (スイカ割り) is a game consisting in smashing a watermelon with a wooden stick while the eyes of the player are covered by a piece of cloth. The person has usually three tries. In Japan there is then a special way of eating watermelon by sprinkling salt on it. They say salt enhances the sweetness.
7. Relax to the sound of furin
My ideal image of summer is a shaded porch, some fresh drink, a fan and the sound of furin in the air. Furin, literally wind (fu) bell (rin), are bells which make a delicate sound when moved by the wind. They are made of glass or metal and hanged by the windows or balconies. Together with cicadas they make the soundtrack of summer.
8. Look for some fresh air in the mountains
There might be some crowd because obviously everybody, especially on week ends, will have the same idea, anyway summer is the perfect season to enjoy a trip to the mountains and spend a day or two in the fresh air. Two of my favorite places to go for a trip are Nagano Prefecture because it is easy to reach from Tokyo and Niigata Prefecture.
9. Climb Mount Fuji
Summer is the season to climb Mt. Fuji. The trails are open from July to mid September and hundreds of hikers start their climb in the early hours of the day. I have never done it yet and it is not in my plans for this summer but who knows, next year I might want to try.
10. Go to the beach
The most famous beaches in Japan are in Okinawa but don’t forget that Japan is made of Islands and there are nice places everywhere to sunbathe and swim in the Ocean. Famous places easy to reach from Tokyo are Enoshima and Kamakura.