August in Tokyo or Time for Holiday!

It is my second summer season in Japan and I am already forgetting that “empty office” feeling, it simply never happens in Japan. Here people either do not take holiday, or cannot take holiday, or have to be forced to take holiday. At best, this means a few days or a week off in mid-August (i.e. this week), which is called Obon.

Obon refers to family reunion holiday, when people return to their home towns to honor the spirits of their ancestors. Some use this time to travel abroad, but the prices are several times higher than normal. Foreigners are the ones who tend to escape from the heat and humidity and take longer holiday outside Japan, for as big part of August as possible. This year, I am doing the same…

If you happen to be visiting Tokyo in August, still there are many things you can do if only you do not mind the weather. Last year I told you about countless summer festivals (matsuri) and firework shows all across Japan, ladies with umbrellas and arm covers obsessed with white skin, or beer gardens all over the place, be it a roof top or a pop up bar type.

Cold matcha tea for a hot summer day, served with a beautifully crafted Japanese sweet.

In addition to these, there are a number of other things you can see and do in and around Tokyo in summer time, which I continue discovering as time goes by:

  • Tokyo Bay evening cruise, where many people gather dressed in summer kimonos (yukatas) to enjoy Tokyo lights and a free-flow of drinks.
  • Explore the (almost secret) roof top terraces for a drink with a view. Sometimes they may be hidden among residential areas, e.g. in Nishi-Azabu near Roppongi Hills. If you are new to Tokyo, you may need some local guidance to find them.

Citabria – one of the secret roof top terraces for a summer night out in Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo.

  • In addition, there are numerous champagne gardens (with free flow of champagne for a fixed fee and a fixed time), or pop up whiskey gardens and the like, so everyone can choose whatever fits the interests and occasion.

Whiskey Highball, a seasonal pop up bar.

  • Maybe Tokyo does not have Dîner en Blanc, but it does have a series of Soirée Blanche, which is all-white, yet not that secret, and you do not need to bring your picnic set with you (I’ll come back to this later).
  • Watch goldfish at the Tokyo Skytree’s Sumida Aquarium. I am not sure if they can make your wish come true (as in some fairy tales), but you may try just in case.
  • Go for a beach trip, as there are a few nice beaches within a reasonable distance from Tokyo (e.g. Zushi, Hayama, Enoshima, or Onjuku in Chiba area on the other side of Tokyo), a perfect choice for a day or weekend trip to enjoy sea, sand and to get a tan.

Sunset in Enoshima.

  • Climb Mount Fuji to watch a sunrise. It is open only from July to September and attracts a lot and a lot of visitors. Even so, Japan wants to further promote mountain tourism and has announced a new national holiday as from 2016 – August 11th is now known as A Mountain Day.

Mt. Fuji 5th station, the starting point to climb to the top.

Mt. Fuji as seen from the 5th station.

  • Explore Tokyo Bay islands. Many people do not realize that Japan has many islands, scattered around Tokyo Bay and all the way south towards Okinawa and Taiwan. Some are known for unique nature and extremely old trees, some for swimming with dolphins, white beaches and etc. You would need to plan in advance for at least a few days trip (depending on which island you choose to visit), and remember that typhoons can happen anytime in August-September. If you choose Okinawa, bear in mind that it generally has a very high UV index.

Towards Tokyo Bay islands. Oshima Island is one of the closest ones.

  • For history and culture fans, there is Nikko or Kamakura with many temples and shrines. You may consider swapping Asakusa visit  to one of those for a more authentic and a bit less touristic experience.

Three wise monkeys, a famous 17th century carving over the door of Toshogu Shrine in Nikko. The message behind: “Hear no Evil, speak no Evil, see no Evil”.

  • Nature lovers have many things to enjoy as well. While firefly evenings and hydrangea blooming season is over by early July, you may still find lotus flowers (mid July to mid August), lavender (mid July to mid August), peach gardens, or sunflower fields among others.

Hydrangea.

I am not even mentioning art or music events, or random festivals in various Tokyo parks, where there is something happening every single weekend (including mass Pokémon hunting this year!).

If you are not a big fan of the heat/humidity, the best escape would be to go to mountain area (e.g. Karuizawa) or further north to Hokkaido (the northern island), though be aware of significantly higher prices and crows of Tokyoites doing the same.

Otherwise, choose another season to visit Japan and spend your holiday in a cooler place elsewhere, whatever matches your summer holiday definition best.

Summertime

Have a nice holiday!

(p.s. and do not forget to bring something sweet!)

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