The Best Places to Visit in Japan During the Summer

Summer in Japan promises plenty of opportunities for sun, exercise and colourful festivals
Summer in Japan promises plenty of opportunities for sun, exercise and colourful festivals | © Sean Pavone / Alamy
Photo of Lucy Dayman
2 September 2021

Although the weather can be temperamental and the air impossibly steamy, summer is a wonderful time to make the most of what Japan has to offer. The months between June and September mean beach-lounging, Mt-Fuji-climbing and embracing the colourful summer festival season. If you’re planning on visiting Japan during the summer, here are a handful of places worth adding to your itinerary.

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Shimoda, Izu

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Shimoda, Japan on Perry Road and canal during the afternoon 2APGY3P
© Sean Pavone / Alamy

For a laidback beach escape not too far from central Tokyo, the Izu Peninsula is a safe bet that juts out just below Mt. Fuji.

As you make your way south, you’ll find a number of cute beach towns worth exploring, including Atami, Ito and Higashi Izu. However, the highlight is arguably Shimoda, a historical hub at the southernmost point of the peninsula. This is where American commodore Matthew C. Perry first reached Japan in 1853 and began diplomatic relations between the two countries, making it a fascinating historical site.

Two of the best beaches on which to spend a lazy summer day are Shirihama and Nabetahama. For white sands and clear water, head straight to Shirihama. Once you’ve spent the morning on the sand, pack your gear and tear around the corner to explore the fascinating Nabetahama, a shady hidden secret cove loved by the locals.

Ishigaki, Okinawa

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Tamatorizaki Observatory, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan
Tamatorizaki Observatory on Ishigaki Island | © Image navi - QxQ images / Alamy

When people plan to holiday in Japan, some of the first images that come to mind are the historic streets of Kyoto, the neon lights of Tokyo and the soft cherry blossoms that carpet the country in the spring. However, some beach-hungry adventurers are beginning to discover that Japan is actually home to some tropical hideaways stunning enough to compete with Fiji and Hawaii.

Head to the southernmost prefecture of Okinawa to find an incredibly well-kept secret. Ishigaki has untouched beaches, a unique culture and some of the most incredible food in the world. It’s definitely worth looking into for your next beach paradise adventure – but be quick, word is spreading fast.

Hakuba, Nagano

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Northern Japanese Alps above Hakuba Valley, Nagano, Japan
© Martin Capek / Alamy

A name typically more synonymous with the colder months, the village of Hakuba in Nagano has long been considered by international guests the best snow destination in the country. However, what you may not know is that the area is arguably just as beautiful in summer (and much easier to visit). With snow-capped mountain ranges and a cooler climate, it’s the best place to head to if you’re looking for a fresh escape from the concrete heat of the city.

Even if there isn’t any snow, many of the ski lifts, like the ones in ski resort Happo-One, are still in action, allowing you to scale the incredible peaks and valleys for scenic hiking opportunities. After hiking, be sure to pay a visit to Lake Aoki for kayaking, swimming and picnicking. Thanks to the clear mountain water and lush surroundings, it’s the most underrated summer destination.

Mt Fuji

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A bullet train passes below Mt. Fuji in Japan.
© Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
If you’ve ever thought of climbing the iconic Mt Fuji, the time to do it is in the middle of summer. The period between early July and mid-September is the only time the mountain is actually open for people to scale the imposing 3,776m (12,388ft) peak. So, if you’ve always wanted to give it a go, plan accordingly.

The climb can be done in a single day. However, most people like to begin the journey at night in order to make it to the top for the sunrise. On the mountain, there are cabins available for overnight accommodation in case it does get too cold.

This time of year, it’s pretty much free of snow, making it relatively safe and not too challenging even for the most casual of climber (unless you’re someone who’s prone to altitude sickness). Potentially the biggest obstacle you’ll have to overcome is dealing with the swarms of local and international tourists who make their way here during the short open season. If you can, try and avoid Obon, a national vacation week that runs in mid-August, as it’s one of the most densely populated times of the season.

Hachijojima, Tokyo Islands

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Abandoned hotel building ruins on Hachijojima Island, Japan.
Ruins of an abandoned hotel on Hachijojima Island | © Sean Pavone / Alamy

Situated south of Shimoda, almost 300km (186mi) from Tokyo, is Hachijojima: an island as remote as it is stunning. Surrounded by a white sand coast and dolphin-populated waters, and home to untamed forests, it’s worlds away from inner city Tokyo and an unforgettable tropical spot. If you’re feeling adventurous, from here you can make your way to the remote volcanic island of Aogashima, which is among the best stargazing spots in the world.

Karuizawa, Nagano

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Shiraito Falls and Rainbow, Nagano, Japan 2BK8D3F
© Ambling Images / Alamy

Stunning in winter and autumn, Karuizawa is a popular holiday destination for Japanese vacationers all year round. However, it’s quickly garnering a reputation for being the ultimate summer hideaway. Situated in highlands of beautiful Nagano Prefecture, like Hakuba it’s cooler climate-wise, reaching just around 25°C (77°F) in summer, a vast difference to the 40°C (104°F) summers of Kyoto.

Ideal for hiking, the area is home to a number of scenic walking trails along the base of Mount Asama. Be sure to pay a visit to Karuizawa Shiraito Falls, a unique spring water waterfall that’s a popular sightseeing destination. Also a well-known place for fine dining and shopping, this small city has long been considered a more upmarket resort town in winter, yet it’s adapting to accommodate a newfound reputation as a summer retreat for the more budget-conscious traveller.

These recommendations were updated on September 2, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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