I can feel the humidity and heat coming in quick! Summer is just around the corner. How confident are you with your summer vocabulary? If you’re familiar with kigo (季語), your summer seasonal words list should be a long one. Kigo refers to seasonal words used in Haiku to describe the seasons.
If you’re not all too happy with your list, don’t worry. You’ve come to the right place to build that up. We’ve compiled a list of common and unique summer seasonal words for you to lock into memory!
Of course, the first on our list is “natsu” (夏). This translates to “summer”. The days leading up to summer are usually bright and warm. This phase of time is called “natsumeku” (夏めく). “Meku” is a suffix that loosely translates to “becoming like”. When you combine it with the Japanese word for summer, it means “beginning to look like summer”.
On the first day of summer (known as rikka, 立夏), everyone welcomes it with open arms. We’re past the cold and dry. Hello, heat and humidity. I don’t know about you, but I’m half-and-half when it comes to summer.
Anyway, after a few weeks into summer, we’ll feel natsubate (夏ばて). This is the fatigue and exhaustion you feel from the summer heat and humidity. “Bate” comes from the verb “bateru” (ばてる), which means “to be exhausted”. Combat natsubate with bottles of water and a sensu (扇子, folding fan).
Let’s not forget the natsumatsuri (夏祭り). The summer festivals are what keeps the spirits up during this humid season. You get everything from music and camping festivals to traditional street marches and food stalls.
For the students, you have natsuyasumi (夏休み) to look forward to! We all need that summer holiday, don’t we?
Come summer, you’ll hear chiming everywhere. That’s all because of the fuurin (風鈴). They are glass wind chimes that symbolises summer in Japan. Fuurins are made of glass bells with a string and a piece of paper hanging down underneath them. You’ll see these glass wind chimes on doors, windows and gates all throughout summer.
Sometimes, people write wishes on the piece of paper as well. When you hear the chimes of the glass bells, you’ll know there’s wind in the air to help with the humid heat!
Before we get the hot sun, we get tsuyu (梅雨). Tsuyu is the rainy season that comes at the start of summer in Japan. Usually, it’s around the start or middle of June and lasts till the middle of July. They’re not heavy rain and it’s usually mild showers in general. However, Japan does get heavy rainstorms as well as typhoons.
You won’t get the humidity as much during this time. Instead, you get tsuyuzamu (梅雨寒), which is the chill from the rain.
Japanese people combat the Japanese summer with kakigoori (かき氷). This is a type of Japanese dessert made from shaved ice and topped with syrup and condensed milk. It’s really sweet, so those of you who have a sweet tooth will absolutely love it!
When summer comes, pop up stalls selling kakigoori appear everywhere! You can have your pick from street kakigoori to ones from specialist shops. Get an ice-shaving machine yourself and try it at home!
Remember when we said there are summer festivals? What’s a festival without fireworks. Hanabi (花火) is one of the highlights of Japanese summer. Every town in the country throws some sort of event for a firework show. Couples, friends and family would bring their mats and find a spot to watch the show.
We’ve been mentioning “humid” a couple of times. What is it in Japanese? It’s “mushiatsui” (蒸し暑い). When the air is moist and damp (or shimetta, 湿った) during the hot weather, that’s when you know it’s peak Japanese summer. I don’t think I’ve experienced a hotter and more humid summer than in Japan. So brace yourselves!
According to the old calendar, there’s another way to refer to the month of June. It’s called “minazuki” (水無月). If you look at the kanji’s used, it combines the word for “water” (水) and “month” (月). The “mu” (無) character doesn’t hold any meaning. If you combine the other two, it translates to “the month of water”.
June is the start of the rainy season, after all. Minazuki is an appropriate name for the month.
There’s a type of soda that comes in glass bottles. They’re called “ramune” (ラムネ). These bottled sodas have curved necks and a glass ball in the middle, referred to as bidama (ビー玉). This type of soda is so popular during the season of summer that it has now become a symbol of the season.
Shochu mimai (暑中見舞い)
Japanese people love sending greeting cards to friends and family during occasions. In summer, they send shochu mimai (暑中見舞い) to check in on their loved ones’ health and wellbeing. They can also send gifts, too!
If you send a greeting card at the end of summer, it’s then referred to as zansho mimai (残暑見舞い).
Summer calls for the sun, sand and sea! If you love going to the beach, you’ve got to brace yourself for the hiyake (日焼け). Hiyake translates to sunburn. Make sure you put on a lot of sunscreen with high SPF content! The sunlight in Japan is no joke!
Has your summer season vocabulary expanded? Prepare for summer with not only bikini bodies and new swimsuits but also a load of new Japanese vocabulary!
Say goodbye to knits and cardigans, and hello to linen dresses and straw hats! Summer is just around the corner. The weather has warmed up enough for us to have picnics in the park and midday strolls. Japan’s natsu (夏, summer) has more to offer than that. In fact, this is the season where all the festivities and events happen. Sure, it gets pretty humid and hot during Japanese summer, but it’s all worth it when you know what you’re going to get. Here are the 10 best things you can do in Japan in summer!
1. Go to the beach
What’s summer without the beach? If you’re wondering what to do in Japan during the summer season, one of the best things is going to the beach. In Japanese, beach is hama (浜), but people understand when you say bīchi (ビーチ). Regardless of which city you’re in in Japan, there’s always a lovely beach nearby. But if you’re really looking for the best beaches in the country, the southernmost part is where you should go. Okinawa’s beaches are top quality. The umi (海, sea) is crystal blue and the suna (砂, sand) is soft like a pillow.
2. Attend local festivals
The best part about Japan’s summer is the local festivals. You wouldn’t even be wondering what to do in Japan when every other street has rows of yatai (屋台, shop stand). These street stalls have everything from street food to local games. You can participate in them to win prizes! These local matsuri (祭り, festival) can go on all day for a weekend or even weeks. If the heat is too much for you to bear, you can pop by in the evening when it’s cooler. A lot of locals would attend these festivals wearing traditional clothes. It’s both entertainment and cultural immersion!
3. Watch the fireworks
Summer is when you can buy fire crackers in stores for yourself, and watch the firework shows on display. There’s nothing quite like watching hanabi (花火, fireworks) in Japan during the summer. They’re a big deal here. Families, friends, couples and colleagues come together to watch this spectacular show. Usually, Japanese people watch the firework show after visiting the local festival. If you’re planning to watch the fireworks in Japan during the summer, be sure to bring a mat and some snacks!
4. Refresh yourself at a beer garden
The heat and humidity during Japanese summer can get rather rough. But don’t worry, Japan has thought of a solution for that. In summer, beer gardens pop up everywhere in the country so you can refresh yourself with a swig of bīru (ビール). These beer gardens don’t only sell beer. There are other alcoholic beverages like cocktails. For non-drinkers, there are non-alcoholic drinks like soft drinks as well. They’re very family-friendly as well, so parents out there, you’re welcome to join the beer garden party!
5. Swim at water parks
If you’re not much of a beach person but still want a soak, go to the water parks in Japan in summer! Wōtā pāku (ワォーター・パーク) is a huge activity that the Japanese locals do during the summer in Japan. You can not only swim (泳ぐ) but also slide down the fun water slides, lie down on big floaties and enjoy the wavepool! Because it’s such a popular thing to do in Japan in summer, it can get pretty crowded. I would advise to go during a weekday instead of a holiday or weekend.
6. Jam at music events
Whether you’re a music lover or not, you have to attend a music event in Japan during the summer. They’re all anyone ever raves about. These エベント can be both indoors and outdoors. The ones I’ve attended have been in the mountains or at big open spaces. Music events are the best for making new friends and enjoying the summer nature. And, of course, enjoy the ongaku (音楽). Who knows, you might discover a new artist or two while you’re at it.
7. Beat the heat in Hokkaido
Not all of us are fans of the heat and humidity. I know I’m one of them. I have some news for you: you can beat the heat by going up north to Hokkaido. This prefecture is the furthest away from the equator compared to the rest of the country.
It’s much cooler up there. Some even say it’s not humid at all!
When in Hokkaido during the summer, you can go around the hana (花) gardens and parks. The field of bloomed flowers is a sight just as spectacular as the powdered snow Hokkaido is known for.
8. Cool down with shaved ice
Other than beer, there’s another way to refresh yourself: kakigōri (かき氷). Translated to shaved ice, locals love this summer dessert. There’s bound to be a store or two at the street stalls at festivals that sell this. You can get any kind of flavour and topping for your kakigōri. There’s usually syrup poured on top of the shaved ice with common toppings like corn. Depending on the store, you can get interesting ones!
9. Watch fireflies
Head out of the city centres in Japan to the countryside. These areas are best for firefly watching. Both locals and travellers alike head out to inaka (田舎), or rural areas, to catch some fireflies in action. If you’re not sure exactly where to go and how to get there, you can book a tour that’ll do the heavy lifting for you.
10. Wear a yukata
Last but not least, the activity you can do in Japan during summer is wearing a yukata (浴衣). This is a version of the kimono (着物), the traditional wear of Japan. It’s made from a lightweight cotton fabric that’s used only during the summer. You can wear a yukata to a local festival, any temple or shrine. Or you can just walk around the street to immerse yourself in the Japanese culture. What better way to experience a country than to put yourself in their shoes.
Get ready for Japanese summer!
These ten activities are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much more you can do in Japan in summer. You might even think you don’t have enough time to do them all! Which summer activity are you excited to do in Japan?
You might not think of the beach as the first few destinations in Japan that you would want to add to your Japan itinerary, but you might want to reconsider. The city lights and culturally rich attractions are great and all, but can it beat a beach day out? Some are even wonderful spots for sunsets and sunrise — after all, it is the Land of the Rising Sun.
As soon as summer hits, you’ll see families and groups of friends crowding every beach in the country! From dipping in the waters to beat the heat and suntanning in the warm sun to beach sports and water activities, the whole stretch of shore will be full of excitement and fun.
Whether it is travelling down south during the colder seasons or packing a day bag for the seaside in summer, the Japanese love their beaches. Let’s take a look at the top beaches in Japan — both mainland and islands — as well a few Japanese beach etiquette.
Japan Mainland Japan Beaches
Not all of the people in Japan want to take days off work just for a day at the beach down south. Some just want a day trip to a nearby beach on the mainland. You might think it’s a substitute of the island beaches of the tropical Japan destinations, but you’ll be surprised at some of these being even more beautiful than you imagined!
What’s more, these mainland beaches are more accessible and some even offer things you won’t get on the Japan islands. Here are the top mainland beaches for your short day getaway from the bustling cities:
Kanagawa — Zushi Beach
Just around the corner from Kamakura in Kanagawa is the Zushi Beach. This is one of the most popular beaches in the area and the first choice for swimming, surfing and parasailing. If you’re in the city to visit the Budhha Statue, why not drop by this 600m long beachside for a leisurely stroll or sit?
If you’re lucky enough to get a clear sky on the day of the visit, be sure to stay till sunset. You’ll get to witness a spectacular view of Mt. Fuji as the sun sets behind its hilly bits.
Kanagawa is not far off from Tokyo, and if you find yourself in the area or looking for a beach to relax after a busy few days in the city, head down to Yuigahama Beach. This is the perfect choice for those looking for both relaxation as well as convenience in a beach spot. Yuigahama Beach is close enough to the nearest train station and fully equipped with pop-up stalls of food and drinks for your pleasure.
It’s only natural to assume a beach so developed would be less of nature and more commercial. Rest assured Yuigahama Beach is the perfect balance of serenity in nature and modernity.
This beach spot is one of the favourite local choices for surfing as well, depending on the currents and tides. Plan your days accordingly to enjoy the best of what this beach can offer!
Don’t want to travel too far out of Tokyo? Perhaps a car ride to Mizo Beach in Shizuoka will satisfy your beach day cravings. This beach is unique in the sense where you won’t be getting a normal seaside view — you’ll be getting an Mt. Fuji view!
Miho Beach is not your average sandy sand beach — it is rather pebbly in comparison. But a lie down on the sand isn’t what the visitors are here for. The stunning view amidst the tall pine trees and other beautiful flora nature makes the trip down here worthwhile. Grab your swimming suit — a dip in the sea with Mt. Fuji in the background sounds like an unbelievable experience!
Even though it’s named as a resort, it’s not really one. Also in Shizuoka, not so far from Tokyo, is the Toji Sand Ski Resort! This is not your average beach. While you can still bring your beach mats, you might want to grab a sled as well (or rent one at a shop near the beach). This Toji Sand Ski Resort is one of the only few with a sand slope that you can sled down on as you take in the beautiful scenery.
After your sledding adventures and a dip in the waters, get your adventure on by exploring the nearby open cave called the Ryugukutsu. A trip to the Toji Sand Ski Resort will undoubtedly not be your average beach day in the best way possible!
Wakayama — Shirahama Beach
Take note that this is not the Shirahama Beach in Shizuoka that we’re talking about, this is the one in Wakayama! Named as the “white beach”, you expect it to be one of the most popular beaches in the country — and you’re right. This spot is one of the most ideal ones for both dipping and lounging, along with a wonderful resort area to spend a few nights in.
One thing this beach spot has that the others don’t is the oceanside onsen. After your dip in the steaming Japanese hot springs, cool yourself down in the clear waters of the Shirahama Beach. You should also definitely stroll down the strip of sand to view the magnificent cliff formations!
While it’s a bit of a travel from central Tokyo, believe me when I say this beach is worth the trip. Jodogahama Beach in Iwate is part of the Sanriku Recovery National Park, so you’re assured a clean and nature-rich beach — its name does translate to Pure Land Beach.
Not only this beach is a popular destination for all things swimming and hiking, but it’s also great for exploring the nearby caves amidst the beautiful and unique rock formations by going on a boat cruise. If you’re not all that adventurous, just the sight of it from the beachside is more than good enough.
Japan Island Beaches
Fair enough, Japan mainland has its own exquisite range of beaches, each with its own unique factor that the rest won’t have. Onto the island beaches in Japan — the Okinawa area is one of the most popular beach destinations for locals and tourists alike!
The region is blessed with a semi-tropical climate all year round, and since it became so popular, the area is full of beach resorts worth spending a couple of days — or even a week! — to fully explore the mainland island as well as the other smaller islands.
Because it’s such a tropical island, there are tons of beaches that you might get overwhelmed! Fear of missing out on the best beaches in Okinawa? Read on to find out the top ones to put on your Japan island beaches list!
Ishigaki Island — Sunset Beach
Last but definitely not the least on the list is Sunset Beach on Ishigaki Island. As the name suggests, this beach is the ultimate spot to view the sunset. To complete the serene view, the combination of the beach’s white sand and the glistening sea is so breathtaking it can be a picture on a postcard!
Before the sunset, take some time out for your snorkeling activities — you’ll be surprised at the variety of marine life you’ll see! Other water activities like jet boards and wakeboarding are available too! Ishigaki Island has become such a popular holiday destination that the resorts are great to stay a night or two so you wouldn’t have to rush your time on this spectacular island!
Located on Miyakojima Island is the famous Yonaha Maehama Beach. The reason it’s so popular is that it’s one of the beaches in all of the Pacific with the whitest sands! It’s no wonder visitors make their way here despite the slight inconvenience in terms of accessibility.
With 7km long of white sand, even with the popularity, the beach is rarely crowded at all! Every kind of water sports can be done here — if you’re a fan of scuba diving and snorkeling, make this your #1 beach destination in Japan!
Don’t just travel here for a day. The island has resort areas full of campsites and hotels that line the shore. Wake up to the view of the horizon — if you’re lucky enough, you might even get a room that overlooks the sunrise or sunset! One of the best hotels you should consider is the Hotel Locus — stylish and affordable, it also has a couple of retail outlets to feed that shopaholic side of yours!
On the southernmost island in all of Japan is Hateruma Island. This inhabited island, specifically the Nishi no Hama Beach, is the place to go if you’re looking for the most natural beaches in the whole country. The contrast between the fine sand and sparkling blue water is quite breathtaking — not to mention the awesome feeling of dipping in the waters and lying down on the soft sand bed.
Nishi no Hama Beach is quite far out and less developed in the sense of beach stalls and shops, so it’s best to bring your own swimming and beach stuff as well as refreshments to make the best of your day there.
More accessible than the former two beaches is the Kondoi Beach in Taketomi Island. This beach is only a short ferry ride away from Japan’s top travel destinations, Ishigaki. This beach is more untouched than the ones on mainland Okinawa Island, so it’s one of the best island beaches to get your snorkeling gear on and see some fishes and corals!
If snorkeling is not your thing, a normal swim and dip are just as ideal — or you can take in the sun as you lie down on the soft, ivory sand.
You’re all set with the tips for Japan beaches, and you know exactly where to go for a fun beach day depending on the part of the country. There are tons of breathtakingly beautiful beaches in the country — it’s only normal to want to go to them all! When the weather is warm and the sun comes out to play, what will be your first pick for the sun, sand and sea in Japan?
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