Summer in Japan is jam-packed with epic festivals and events galore — but this season also brings scorching temperatures and unrelenting humidity levels that make it feel a little too hot.
That’s not to say you should avoid travelling to Japan between June and August, though! You can easily beat the heat by making for the country’s magnificent mountainous regions and coral-fringed coastlines.
Not only will these destinations help you keep your cool, but they’ll also take you away from Japan’s well-worn tourist trail so you can see a side of the country that few travellers see (which is a win-win!).
From subtropical archipelagoes to traditional mountain towns, check out five of our favourite places to visit in Japan in summer.
Travel to: Japan
Nestled high in the mountains of Tochigi prefecture, Nikko makes for the perfect retreat from Tokyo’s sweltering summer heat. Surrounded by Nikko National Park and peppered with famous temples, this unbelievably scenic region is chock-full of countless natural wonders and sacred shrines to explore.
Tosho-gu Shrine — one of the most popular and historically significant sites in the country — is the main attraction here. Masses of Japanese tourists flock to the grounds of Tosho-gu year-round, so the crowds can be a tad bit overwhelming; however, you can head to any number of quieter shrines and attractions afterward.
Whether you fancy kayaking on Lake Chuzenzi or hitting one of the park’s stunning hiking trails, be sure to explore Nikko’s natural side while you’re here, too.
Technically, you could visit Nikko as a day trip from Tokyo, but there’s so much to see and do in this beguiling region that you’ll definitely want to stay for at least a night or two.
Top things to do in Nikko:
- Explore the grounds of Tosho-gu shrine
- Go hiking up Mount Hangetsu
- Walk across the scared Shinkyo Bridge
- Visit Kegon Falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls in the country
See Also: How to Spend Two Weeks in Japan
If you’re feeling a little too hot, hot, hot in places like Osaka or Tokyo, make for Hokkaido — Japan’s northernmost island — for a break from the stifling summer humidity. Unlike Central Japan, Hokkaido’s mild climate is blissful between June and August.
The island’s largest city, Sapporo, is laid-back and incredibly welcoming — and it might just be one of the most underrated destinations in the country. This city is best known for its annual snow festival, but it also makes for a fantastic summer destination.
Over 70% of Hokkaido is covered by forest, so this is a great place to get out into nature and explore expanses of unspoiled wilderness.
Top things to do in Hokkaido:
- Spot wildlife in Shiretoko National Park
- Try miso ramen, a Sapporo specialty
- Explore the historically significant city of Hakodate
With its 17th-century latticed wooden buildings and charming old town, Takayama is the antithesis to Japan’s remarkably modern cities.
The heart of this quaint, mountain-ringed town is Sanmachi Suji, a popular area lined with preserved merchant houses, famous sake breweries, traditional restaurants, and cafes.
You could easily spend a whole day wandering the city’s insanely picturesque streets, stocking up on souvenirs, and sampling mouthwatering street food like mitarashi dango (grilled rice dumplings covered in a sweet soy glaze).
Takayama can also be used as a base from which to explore several notable destinations in Central Japan, including Shirakawa-go (a village and UNESCO-listed site with over 100 traditional thatch-roof houses) and the Japan Alps mountain range.
Top things to do in Takayama:
- Wander around the city’s beautifully-preserved old town
- See the Sakurayama Hachimangu Shrine
- Visit Hida Folk Village
Japan is synonymous with neon-clad mega-cities and ornate temples, but one of the country’s best-kept secrets is Okinawa, a chain of subtropical islands between Taiwan and Japan’s mainland.
While the entire prefecture of Okinawa is famed for its idyllic scenery, a few islands stand out above the rest when it comes to stunning shorelines.
Miyako and Yaeyama, in particular, are known for having some of the best beaches in the country. Fringed with azure seas and sugar-white sands, these islands could easily give Southeast Asia’s top tropical hotpots a run for their money.
The best part? This slice of paradise is only a three-hour flight from Tokyo, so it’s easy to add some sun, sand, and surf to your Japan itinerary.
Tip: Okinawa’s hot, sunny weather typically peaks throughout August and September, but this is also typhoon season, so be sure to keep this in mind if you’re planning to visit.
Top things to do in Okinawa:
- Go snorkelling or scuba diving
- Hit the beach
- Try local Okinawan cuisine
5. Mount Fuji
Japan’s major metropolises may be sweltering in summer, but the high-altitude trails of Mount Fuji offer respite from the unforgiving humidity levels. The climbing season here kicks off at the beginning of July, so if you’re keen to conquer Japan’s most iconic mountain peak, summer is the perfect time to tick this activity off your bucket list.
Though the ascent is tough, no technical mountaineering experience is necessary, and it’s possible for beginners to tackle this trek. You can scale Mount Fuji in a day if you start early, but most people choose to climb over two days to avoid exhaustion and altitude sickness.
If you don’t want to climb Japan’s highest mountain, head to Hakone — a mountainous town located roughly 90km from Tokyo — for a spectacular view of this famous landmark from ground level.
Top things to do around Mount Fuji:
- Explore the Fuji Five Lakes region at the foot of the mountain
- View Mount Fuji from the lake or cable car in Hakone
- See the sunrise from the summit of Mount Fuji
Having trouble nailing down your Japan itinerary? Check out our range of Japan tours and trips departing in summer 2020 and lock in your next adventure now.