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What to do in Summer in Japan?

Now Im back living in England and missing Osaka, although Im not missing the suffocating humidity or mosquitoes.

June is rainy season in Japan, and in the last few years it seems that there have been more typhoons than ever before, global warming I expect! August is the most unbearable summer month, where it is so humid it can be impossible to go outdoors.

Here are some of my favorite things to see and do in summer in Japan, particularly in and around Osaka.

Go to all the festivals. There are SO many summer festivals. I love them all. Even though every one is different you still have your basic elements – food stalls, amusement stands and usually some kind of parade or singing / dancing.

Choose from – Aizen MatsuriGion Matsuri, Tenjin Matsuri, Kishiwada Danjiri or Daimonji. My favorite is Tsuruhashi Danjiri, its so lively and fun, and not so touristy, mostly just locals.

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Eat kakigori (shaved ice). Its delicious and cold, its also cheap, and its a real summer memory. My favourite is peach but its hard to find, so lemon is a close second.However the best ones are rainbow kakigori – all the flavors!!

Wear yukata. Yukata are summer kimonos, they are cheaper and easier to put on. It does take a bit of practice (YouTube helps) or you can go to a rental place where they will dress you (usually 3500yen). Its fun to wear yukata sightseeing with friends or to a summer festival.

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Go to the beach. Japanese beach culture is quite different to England, and something to see. Its also a surprise to see the usually modestly dressed public baring all. Around Osaka you can easily get to Suma beach in Kobe for wild parites and music, or Shirahama beach for a short getaway. If you can afford it go to Okinawa where you can snorkel with turtles and go kayaking.

 

Enjoy hiking. Its cooler up high. There are plenty of mountains in Japan, KongosanMt Rokko or for the more adventurous, you can climb Mt Fuji itself. If you dont fancy hiking vist Kifune in Kyoto where you can get dinner over the water.

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See a baseball game. I have to admit I became a baseball fan when living in Osaka, give it a chance, you might like it too.

 

Visit a museum. They are indoors and therefore air conditioned! The Ukiyoe museum in Osaka is fun, or visiting an aquarium can be really refreshing.

 

Celebrate Tanabata. Tanabata the star festival is celebrated at different times in Japan depending on where you are, in Tokyo and Osaka its July 7th. Shitennoji Shrine hold celebrations every year.

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Get on the water. The Whirlpools in Naruto are pretty amazing to see, summer may not be the best time to see them but its so cooling to take a boat out on the water. There are also summer boat rides down the Hozugawa in Arashiyama.

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Visit a theme park. If you are feeling brave and can withstand the heat theme parks are fun in summer, USJ and DisneySea have water fights or events to help you cool off. Alternatively they both have late night opening where you can watch the Electric Parade at USJ or fireworks at Disneyland.

Go camping. Camping in Japan is cheap and there are quite a few spots to choose from, we went camping on an abandoned island, or you could head to a manned campsite. Admittedly however it can be a little limiting without a car.

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Fireworks. Summer season is firework season. The biggest and most famous display is over the Sumida River in Tokyo. Osaka has the fireworks as part of Tenjin Matsuri and other local displays, like those in Ikeda. Alternatiely you can buy fireworks from the convenience or 100yen store and set off your own.

 

Cool of with a beer. In summer beer gardens open up, often on top of departents stores across Japan. Asahi open up their special Extra Cold bars and everyone is happy.

 

Get romantic. Nara Tokae is a light up event around the cities park that lasts for a few days, you can stroll among the lights hand in hand with your loved one.

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Watch Concorant fishing. Its quite the unique experience, fishermen (and ladies) use birds to catch fish, displays are done in the summer months throughout Japan, we watched concorant fishing in Kyoto.

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Relax in the park. If you can find a bit of shade then the park can be very enjoyable, Expo 70 Park in Osaka always has a lot of flowers to enjoy and Hama-Rinkyu in Tokyo is lovely.

Honor your ancestors. The O-bon holidays fall in summer and there are many local events that week to show thanks to our ancestors. The candle light up at Shitennoji shrine in Tennoji is quite a sight.

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Watch fireflies. Its really exciting when you spot a firefly, and quite a magical moment.

Visit the baby deer. Nara Park has a lot of free roaming deer, tourists are encouraged to buy ‘deer cookies’ and feed them. In June they all have little baby deer and you can visit them and fawn over them.

 

Well those activities should keep you busy. Have fun and take a fan!

 

 

 

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Japan: Obon Holiday

As usual my Obon holiday was jam packed! It’s hard to do much during the day as its so so hot. Luckily most of the events we attended were night time activities.

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In a short space of time we managed the Nagai Botanical Garden Night Garden, Nara To-kae, our own fireworks in the park, Shitennoji Urabon-e, Uji Cormorant fishing, Awaodori, Ikeda Fireworks and the Dotonbori Bon dance world record attempt!

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Senko Hanabi

Fireworks are definitely a summer event in a Japan, and what’s more is you can buy your own fireworks pretty much anywhere (convenience store, supermarket…) and hold your own show!

I really wanted to try Japanese sparklers, your meant to hold them upside down instead of straight out like we do in the UK.

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We bought this medium pack from Lawson for ¥999, about £6.60.

First I tried the sparkers…

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You can also stick them in the ground.

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The pack had many different types, most of which you hold in your hand and ignite.

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This was in my hand!!

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These were snakes, like mini Catherine wheels on the ground.

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James with a dragon firework and the castle in the background.

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Even Rilakkuma and Korilakkuma came to enjoy the show.

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For less than ¥1000 we had a lot of fun, if you haven’t tried them yet you really should!

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I can’t wait to try these next!

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Osaka: Ikeda Fireworks

So far this summer I hadn’t seen any fireworks, I missed Osakas biggest fireworks Yodogawa Fireworks as I was working.

Instead I dragged James to Ikeda fireworks as my last chance to see a fireworks display this year.

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Also I thought it was my last chance to wear yukata too, so even though I risked looking like a wanna be gaijin I wore it.

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It was really busy, but we seemed to find a good spot on the left hand side of the river with almost a 360degree view of the sky.

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Woah so pretty, the fireworks were pretty gentle and subdued but all the better for it! There were a few experimental ones, the show started with a countdown in the sky but some numbers were back to front or upside down! We also spotted some hearts, stars, smiley faces and an attempt at Doreamon.

Afterwards we hid in Torikizoku to enjoy the air conditioning and a cold beer before fighting our way back to Umeda on the train.

James said he enjoyed it more than the Yodogawa Fireworks, the atmosphere was a lot more relaxed!

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Hanabi

I’m going to jump ahead in time a little to post about the fireworks over the Sumida River on 28th July.

I had been really looking forward to the fireworks and had read online that it would be busy and some people sat in their spot from the early hours of the morning.

Seeing as Gion matsuri and Tenjin werent too bad we decided to wing it and met some friends at Asakusa Station at 6pm (fireworks started at 7.05pm!).

Oh my days it was busy!!! We had to change trains at Ueno and the staff were pushing people on the trains. We had to wait for 3 trains to pass through before we got to the front and witnessed a lady get her shoulder stuck in the doors, instead of pulling her off two guards put their weight behind her and shoved her in. I just stood there jaw slack not quite believing it!

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When we arrived (late) it wasn’t any better, we stood in line with what must have been thousands of people waiting to cross the bridge.

There were quite a few people having rooftop hanabi parties, including two men on the top of some scaffolding!

Just after 7pm as we were slowly edging over the bridge the first fireworks started to go off. First to our right, then our left, right, left…then both!! It was hard to know where to look!

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We tried to take our time crossing the bridge as it had the best views but the police were ushering people on. They had a neat system of letting people through in batches then coming up in a line behind them with rope to move them on!

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After we’d crossed the bridge we saw people sat in a line in an alleyway with one spot left-so we grabbed it! Opened some wine got out our picnic snacks and had a small hanabi party! The group next to us looked like they’d brought their dining table and chairs out!

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The fireworks went on until about 8.30pm then we walked around the festival stands at Senso-ji and had some peach kakigori (shaved ice).

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As you can see I got in the festival spirit and wore my yukata. I’ve seen quite a lot of girls (esp gyaru) wearing ‘sexy yukata’ I’m not sure I like it!

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What do you think?!