Exploring Japan Urban Ideas and Travel Tips

Tokyo Summer : How to Enjoy Summer in the City

I am not a big fan of summer here in Tokyo. From someone who came from a tropical country, I find Tokyo summer intensively hot and humid. While most locals try to get away from the urban heat, the alarming cases of people who suffered from heat stroke, and the somewhat irritating noise made by the cicadas, staying here  in the metro during summer is not that bad. Here are some ways on how to enjoy summer season in the metro:

Tokyo Summer :  How to Enjoy and What to Avoid  

1. Enjoy the fireworks, food&drinks, and merriment at Hanabi festivals

Summer is Hanabi season in Japan! It is the season when people enjoy fireworks display for free; beautiful yukatas (Japanese traditional dress similar to kimonos); worn by locals and foreigners from all ages both male and female; and the time to enjoy beer and picnicking while watching an hour of amazing fireworks.

Girls in yukata walking their way to Edogawa 2014 Hanabi
Locals and foreigners sitting on their mats while waiting for the Edogawa 2014 Hanabi
Admiring the colorful fireworks

They say that summer in Japan is not complete without going to a Hanabi festival. However, be sure to go there a bit early as places for this type of event tend to be very crowded. For more information and schedule of fireworks here in Tokyo, please visit this link https://www.gotokyo.org/en/tourists/attractions/fourseasons/hanabitaikai.html.

2. Learn Japanese traditions and different culture & food at summer festivals

It’s only in Japan where you can enjoy Oktoberfest in May. Quite weird for the name but this only manifest how Japanese like festivals, food, and alcohol. Depending on the occasion or season, rest assured that there is an equivalent festival here in Japan. But most of them are held during summer.

If you are trapped in Tokyo, going to festivals within the metro would be a great experience especially if you are with friends. And the good thing is that there are also international festivals during this season. Last year my husband and I together with some friends attended the Kawasaki International Summer Festival in their International Community Center. We had a chance to see exhibition shows featuring different Japanese culture like wearing Kimonos, samurai or sword demonstration, and playing of drums. We were also able to see different dances, clothes, toys, and food from various countries allover the world.

Learning how to dance the salsa at Kawasaki International Summer Festival
Food stalls selling delicacies from different countries worldwide are a hit in summer festivals

Here’s a link to visit if you want to know the schedule of festivals here in Tokyo: http://www.gotokyo.org/eventlist/en/list.

3. Have a blast doing indoor sightseeings

If you hate the sun and humidity, there are still hope to see the beauty of Japan indoors. Aside from the huge malls and shopping centers especially in Ginza; Shibuya; Omotesando; and Odaiba, there a lot of indoor facilities to enjoy like museums, aquariums, and indoor gardens. Some of them are even interactive and high-tech like the 360 theatre in the National Museum for Science and Nature in Ueno or the simulation driving at Toyota’s Megaweb Car Exhibition Center.

Tropical rainforest experience inside Yumenoshima Tropical Greenhouse Dome in Shin Kiba

For only JPY2,000 (more or less USD20), the Grutto Pass will give you one-time access or discounted entrance fee to 78 sightseeing facilities here in Tokyo such as museums, art galleries, and aquariums. To know more about this pass, please visit this link: http://www.rekibun.or.jp/grutto/pdf/grutt_pass2014.pdf.

4. Enjoy the free refreshing water facilities in the parks

You may not be able to have a full swim (or you might be totally allowed to do it) in small ponds or water fountains transformed as swimming pools in the community parks but just being near them, looking at kids enjoying the water, listening to the water splashes can be relaxing enough. But there are also a lot of public pools and baths where you can enjoy a cool and refreshing swim. In Kasai Rinkai Park, there is a portion of the bay where people can enjoy the beach. So, no need to travel far to Kamakura or Chiba for some saltwater experience. Although you can stay in the park until late at night, access to the beach is only up to 4:00 or 5:00 in the afternoon.

Kids beat the summer heat by enjoying the cool waters in Edogawa Rose Garden
A man-made stream inside Gyosen Park

5. Hunt for unique Japanese summer fruits

Summer is also the time of the year when you can find summer fruits uniquely for Japan. I am not talking about strange or exotic fruits but mainly summer fruits which were modified by shape, color or appearance. Maybe it might be a bit expensive than the usual fruits found in your nearby grocery or fruit store, but by just seeing these unique fruits firsthand is already a keeper when you tell your grandchildren about your Japan experiences in the future.

Interestingly unique shapes of watermelons in Japan (photo credit: heart.okwave.com)
Limited edition of Hello Kitty Melon (photo credit: likecool.com)

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