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Alongside New Year, summer time is the most festive period on the Japanese calendar. With a multitude of events, activities and cuisines to indulge in during this time of year, I’ve narrowed it down to a top five selection. Be sure not to miss any of these.
1. Summer Festival (Natsu Matsuri)
This is most likely the biggest feature event of summer in Japan. These festivals are open to the public and are held in each locality. Wherever you are, there will most likely be some form of the event near you.
Activities include live music and performances, stalls selling a plethora of traditional Japanese street food, carnival games, and fireworks. The best way to experience this is to get dressed up in your Japanese summer yukata and explore everything the festival has to offer.
2. Tanabata Festival
Tanabata translates into an evening of the seventh and is also known as the Star Festival. Usually, this festival is held at shrines across Japan on the 7th of July and derives from the legend of two deities in love, but separated by the Milky Way. It is only on this day once a year on which they are allowed to meet.
In many ways, the activities are similar to that of the summer festival, and may people attend dressed in traditional yukata. However, one distinctive custom is to write wishes on pieces of paper and hand them on the bamboo branches of a special wish tree.
You don’t have to attend a formal festival to experience fireworks. In Japan, it is legal to purchase recreational fireworks at your local shopping centers and light them in an open space outdoors.
Many people will go down to the riverside with friends and family at night, often with cans of drinks and snacks, and have a nocturnal picnic while enjoying fireworks.
4. Cold Noodles (Reimen)
Fancy a hearty bowl of ramen but the weather is too hot? Well, why not try a bowl of cold noodles or reimen? They are just as filling but equally as refreshing.
Most ramen and noodle bars will offer this option. Reimen options are extensive, with udon, soba and ramen noodles as a base. My personal recommendation is a chilled bowl of tsuke-men, where the noodles and soup are served in separate dishes. You can enjoy dipping your ramen noodles in the refreshing soup to cool down on a hot summer’s day.
5. The Beach
Japan may not be as well known for its beaches as some other countries, but going to a Japanese beach is a unique experience on its own. Most tourist and recreation oriented beaches will offer lockers for your valuables and shower rooms equipped with body wash and shampoo. This usually comes at a small fee of around five hundred yen depending on the place, but definitely gives an aspect of comfort and convenience.
Along the sand you’ll often also find a number of food and drink bars and cafes. They not only sell the standard cold drinks and ice creams, but you can also order a bowl of ramen to enjoy on the sand while looking out onto the ocean. Perhaps somewhat unconventional to many, but this is truly a unique Japanese experience.
Let’s enjoy Japanese summer, and find your favorite place.