Keep Cool in the Tokyo Summer
The Nippon capital swelters in the summer months and as the mercury spikes past the mid 20s, so does the intensity of the city. Avoid getting hot and bothered with our insider guide on how to keep your cool.
Summertime in Japan means festivals, festivals and more festivals. From modest neighbourhood shindigs to city- or country-wide extravaganzas, you'll find a celebration virtually every weekend. Tanabata, the romantic, annual ‘star festival’ is first up on 7th July, while the epic Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival rockets into action on the 29th, the last Saturday of the month. Dating back to the C.18th, this is the largest pyrotechnic show in Tokyo, drawing spectators in their hundreds of thousands. Head to Sumida Park Asakusa to pick your position well before nightfall – but beware, the super keen get there the day before. Alternatively, avoid the hordes by pre-booking a chabudai table on a traditional Yakatabune Boat Cruise, and graze on full-course seasonal fare with traditional sake tipples as you glide beneath the sparkly action.
Tokyo might not strike you as a beach destination, but on an island like Japan, the beautiful coast is never far away. Beach parties are a hugely popular summer activity, catering for all ages with delicious food and live music and a party atmosphere. Less than an hour by train south of Tokyo is Kamakura with over 1km of sand, swim and surf for fun n’ frolics.
During balmier months, savvy Tokyoites beeline for bars with alfresco areas to enjoy a cold quaff in the breeze. In Shibuya, Jinnanken's rooftop garden exudes a chic, grown-up vibe, while fashionable sip spot Two Rooms, is a slick steel-and-glass haven with breezy terrace-deck-bar offering eye-popping panoramas – you’ll need to call ahead to snag an outdoor perch. Further afield, we love rustic Beer Mount at Mt Takao for an after-hike toast.
Still itching to explore, despite the heat? Escape the urban hustle by heading east to Yanaka, a lovely, laid-back neighbourhood of winding lanes and historic wooden houses, with shady streets aplenty to shelter from the rays. Take a leisurely ride on a two-wheeler from Tokyobike, being sure to pedal past Yanaka Ginza, a shopping street lined with stalls selling artisan produce, crafts and sweets; peaceful Yanaka Cemetery; tranquil Tennoji Temple with its big bronze Buddha; and contemporary art space Scai the Bathhouse. Finish off your jaunt with a frosty brew at Yanaka Beer Hall. Kanpai!
Sumidagawa Fireworks Festival / Mukojima / Sumida-ku / 7-8.30pm Sat / 29 Jul / sumidagawa-hanabi.com
Nakakin Yakatabune Boat Cruises / 1-1-17 Higashishinagawa / Shinagawa-ku / +81 3 3471 4531 / 11am-9.30pm daily / nakakin.com
Beer Mount / Takao Cho / Hachioji City / +81 42 665 9943 / 3-9pm Mon-Fri, 1-9pm Sat-Sun / until 15 Oct / mount-takao.com
Jinnaken / 1-20-5 Shinjuku-ku / +81 50 3188 6455 / 7-11pm Mon-Fri, 4-11pm Sat-Sun / until 24 Sep / beergarden.jinnaken.com
Two Rooms / 5/F / 3-11-7 Kita Aoyama / Minato-ku / +81 3 3498 0002 / 11.30am-2am Mon-Sat, till 10pm Sun / tworooms.jp
Tokyobike Rentals / 4-2-39 Yanaka / Taito-ku / +81 3 5809 0980 / 10am-7pm daily / tokyobike.com
Yanaka Ginza / 3-13-1 Yanaka / Taito-ku / yanakaginza.com
Yanaka Cemetery / 7-5-24 Yanaka / Taito-ku
Tennoji Temple / 7-14-8 Yanaka / Taito-ku
Scai the Bathhouse / Kashiwaya-Ato / 6-1-23 Yanaka / Taito-ku / +81 3 3821 1144 / scaithebathhouse.com
Yanaka Beer Hall / 2 Chome 15-6 / Taito-ku / +81 3 5834 2381 / herofield.com